Most of us will make a New Year’s resolution – maybe to lose weight, quit smoking or drink less – but only one in 10 of us will achieve our goal.
Psychologists have found we’re more likely to succeed if we break our resolution into smaller goals that are specific, measurable and time-based.
Professor Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, tracked 5,000 people as they attempted to achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
His team found that those who failed tended not to have a plan, which made their resolution soon feel like a mountain to climb.
Some focused too much on the downside of not achieveing their goal, adopted role models, fantasised about their goal or relied on will power alone.
“Many of these ideas are frequently recommended by self-help experts but our results suggest that they simply don’t work,” says Prof Wiseman.
“If you are trying to lose weight, it’s not enough to stick a picture of a model on your fridge or fantasise about being slimmer.”
He said the 10% of participants in the study who had achieved their target broke their goal into smaller goals and felt a sense of achievement when they achieved these.
“Many of the most successful techniques involve making a plan and helping yourself stick to it,” says Prof Wiseman.
Top 10 goal-setting tips
Prof Wiseman’s top 10 tips to achieving your New Year’s resolution:
- Make only one resolution. Your chances of success are greater when you channel energy into changing just one aspect of your behaviour.
- Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to think about your resolution and instead take some time out a few days before and reflect upon what you really want to achieve.
- Avoid previous resolutions. Deciding to revisit a past resolution sets you up for frustration and disappointment.
- Don’t run with the crowd and go with the usual resolutions. Instead think about what you really want out of life.
- Break your goal into a series of steps, focusing on creating sub-goals that are concrete, measurable and time-based.
- Tell your friends and family about your goals. You’re more likely to get support and want to avoid failure.
- Regularly remind yourself of the benefits associated with achieving your goals by creating a checklist of how life would be better once you obtain your aim.
- Give yourself a small reward whenever you achieve a sub-goal, thus maintaining motivation and a sense of progress.
- Make your plans and progress concrete by keeping a handwritten journal, completing a computer spreadsheet or covering a notice board with graphs or pictures.
- Expect to revert to your old habits from time to time. Treat any failure as a temporary setback rather than a reason to give up altogether.
Below are some of the most common New Year health resolutions, with links to help you get started and achieve your goal.
Get practical tips to lose excess weight, including getting started, healthy food swaps, and the NHS 12-week weight loss plan.
We’ve got all you need to help you achieve your goal to stop smoking, including ordering a free Quit Kit, getting support and tracking your progress.
Calculate your units, get tips on cutting down, track your drinking and find out where to get help and support.
Whether you’re cooking for a family or eating on the go, our tips and recipes can help you get your 5 A DAY.