A recent survey found less than 10% of people who made them actually fulfilled their 2019 New Year’s resolutions (Economy, 2019).  While not surprising to most resolution makers, it is an alarming failure rate.  Research may, however, offer some actionable tactics to turn your January goals into achievements by December 2020.

Here are eight scientifically supported strategies to help you achieve success in 2020

  1. Pick one. Achieving one goal is difficult enough, but that difficulty increases with the number of goals demanding your time, energy, resources and commitment. Pick one goal and commit to it—completely. Once that is achieved, target another goal and commit to achieving it.  This strategy will significantly increase your chances of success in 2020.
  2. Make it meaningful. According to psychologist Daniel Pink, having a sense of purpose is a great motivation accelerator (Pink, 2009).  When something has exceptional meaning beyond just personal interest, we discover a heightened level of motivation to take directed action.  If your goals are all about you, no one else will care and soon, neither will you.  Does that mean “losing weight so I look good in a swimsuit” is a poor goal.  In and of itself, maybe.  Perhaps it only needs to be amended to “losing weight and becoming fit so I can help my family enjoy an active lifestyle, miss fewer workdays and not stress those who rely on me, help others rather than burden them, reduce medical expenses, be here when my grandchildren arrive—and look good in a swimsuit.”
  3. Do what you like. If you hate the gym, don’t set a goal to exercise more in 2020.  Find success by doing something you like that will lead you to achieving your goal.  If you hate the gym, there may be other forms of physical activity you like; dancing, cycling, walking, or gardening.  Commit to do more of the things you like that will bring you the benefits you desire.  In addition to achieving your goal, you will have a great time in 2020.
  4. Give it up; Don’t add it on. Goals requiring you to ‘give something up’ are significantly more successful than goals requiring to ‘do something more’ (Sullivan & Rothman, 2008).  Most people barely have enough time to do what they have to do already.  Adding something more to an already full schedule doesn’t work.  Taking on a new activity (e.g., going to the gym) will not only take more of your valuable time, but will also more effort, planning and possible expense then would simply stopping something you are currently doing (e.g., drinking sugary soft drinks to lose weight).
  5. Monitor progress. Checking progress promotes goal achievement in two ways (Harkin, 2016).  First, assessing advancement allows us to see that we are indeed closing in on our goal—often not as quickly as we would like, but progress none-the-less and this is motivating.  Second, monitoring progress provides an archive of our achievement and we want to keep that record growing.  Keep your records visible so you can see—and be inspired by—your progress daily.
  6. Habit Forming. Humans, by nature, are creatures of habit. Making a short-term behavior change is easy.  We can do most things for a day or two, maybe even a week.  But to maintain a positive practice long-term requires it become a habit. Commitment and practicality are the two factors that turn desired behaviors into a habits.  If we resolve to repeat a behavior often enough, and if it is practical for us to do on a regular basis, the behavior will soon begin feel comfortable, we will adjust to it becoming part of our routine, and it will subsequently become a habit.  If the actions required to realize your goals become habits, you will become one of the 10% who are successful in their 2020 goals.
  7. Make it Public. In publicly declare your goals, you will discover two things.  First, declaring your goal publicly strengthens your mental commitment to achieving it.  And you have the added factors of public pressure and your self-image pushing you to complete your goal.  Second, you will be surprised the number of people who will offer help. Their assistance may come in the form of information, resources, emotional support or motivation.
  8. Forgive; but don’t give up. Giving up is a choice.  Don’t chose to do it. Few journeys are ever completed without failures and setbacks.  Expect them, but don’t be defeated by them.  If you miss a day, resolve to get back on schedule tomorrow.  If progress is not made on the timeline you predicted, shift your timeline to make it more reasonable or seek alternative strategies or actions that may prove more successful.  Those who consistently achieve their goals do so, not by giving up, but rather by forgiving themselves; accepting their shortcomings and moving forward toward to their goals.   Forgive rather than give up on yourself.  In doing so, you will achieve success in 2020.

References

Economy, P.,  (January 1, 2019).  10 Top New Year’s Resolutions for Success and Happiness in 2019 https://bit.ly/34qDyoS

Harkin, B., Webb, T. L., Chang, B. P. I., Prestwich, A., Conner, M., Kellar, I., Sheeran, P. (2016). Does monitoring goal progress promote goal attainment? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin142(2), 198–229.

Pink, D.  (2009).  Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.  New York: Penguin.

Sullivan, H., & Rothman, A. (2008).  When planning is needed.  Implementation intentions and attainment of approach versus avoidance health goals.  Health Psychology, 27(4), 438-444.