finishline1So it is the new year and for many people this means a chance at a fresh start and setting New Year’s resolutions.  One may have many reasons for setting goals: to finish a novel, write a thesis, lose 10 pounds, lose 100 pounds, run a marathon, or just simply to stop being a couch potato. However, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only eight percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions are successful in achieving them. Here are some tips to help increase the chances of following through with your goals.

1) First ask yourself if your long term goal is: realistic, achievable, and something that YOU want. You won’t stick to your goal if these criteria aren’t met.

2) Set up a time frame, but give yourself longer than you think you need. More often than not, something will happen that will slow you down. Plus, if you finish in less time than you thought, you will feel pretty good about yourself.

3) Set short term goals and make them ridiculously easy to achieve. This is especially important if the road to your goal is a long and daunting one. When I was writing my thesis, I made myself write one sentence per day. I found that if I started the day thinking “I have to write a 100 page paper,” I would find an excuse to put it off until the next day when I supposedly had more motivation and time. But, if I started the day thinking “I only have to write one sentence today,” I would write that sentence. Quite often that one sentence would turn into several paragraphs or pages and I would feel pretty awesome about surpassing my goal.

If your goal is to stop being a couch potato and go for a walk every day, then tell yourself that even if you don’t feel like it or you have too much to do, you will put on your shoes and walk to the end of the block. You might be surprised at how often a walk to the end of the block will inspire you to keep going.

4) If you can, set up accountability. For some reason, as humans we have a lot more trouble letting someone else down than letting ourselves down. For example if your goal is to workout twice per week at the gym, then find a friend  that will meet you there (and preferably someone that will be angry if you don’t show up). However, don’t use this person as your replacement for self-discipline.

5) Track your progress. Seeing how far you’ve come is a great motivator to keep going. Examples could be keeping a journal, making a list of short term goals and checking them off when you have achieved them, or (this might sound silly) posting a calendar on your fridge and placing a gold star on every day you achieve your goal.

6) Ask for help. This is probably my most important piece of advice. For example, if your goal is to get fit and go to the gym twice per week but you don’t know what to do when you get there, you are setting yourself up for potential failure (and maybe even an injury). Get help from a friend who knows their way around the gym, hire a personal trainer for one session to design a program and show you correct techniques, or join a fitness class.