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How To Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

A 5-step outline for how to make and follow your 2021 New Year’s resolutions
By Megan Clark

Megan Clark

As we leave 2020 behind and look forward to what we all hope will be a better year, many people, about 40 percent of Americans, will start etching out 2021 New Year’s resolutions. Yet many of us who made New Year’s resolutions in January 2020, only to have plans for a successful year squashed, are feeling understandably tentative about putting pen to paper on any kind of goals for a new year. 

Now that we’ve experienced a year unlike any other, we don’t want to get ourselves worked up over resolutions that have little possibility of coming true. Not only that, but research shows that only 46 percent of people who make a New Year’s resolution are actually successful in following through. 

So should you make a New Year’s resolution in 2021? We think you should, but here’s the catch: you have to be smart about it. In this article, we’ve outlined five steps you can take to set and stick to your New Year’s resolutions for 2021.

Step 1: Reflection

A huge reason why New Year’s resolutions never come true for many people is that there was very little thought put in upfront. To actually follow through on your New Year’s goals, step one is to take time to reflect on what those goals are and make sure they are meaningful to you.

As you reflect on your New Year’s resolutions for 2021, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?
  • Is this goal worth my time?
  • Am I willing to work hard to achieve this? 
  • Does this goal mean something to me or is it just something I hear other people making? 
  • What will happen if I don’t reach this goal?
  • Have I had this as a New Year’s resolution in previous years? If so, why did I give up?
  • What has the last year held for me and what can I realistically expect for this year?

After the whirlwind that was 2020, we’ve learned that it’s never wise to throw out wild or big resolutions and hope they stick. Uncertainty will most likely continue to cloud 2021. Knowing this, it's important to think about what is meaningful (and realistic) to you as you write out your 2021 New Year's resolutions.

Step 2: Set SMART resolutions

The reality of February sinks in for so many of us when we realize our New Year’s resolutions were too big, too broad or too much. To avoid this feeling, focus on one to three goals (depending on how big they are) and ensure that those goals are SMART: That is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. 

Only by setting one to three goals that are specific in nature, can be measured, are realistic for you, and have a deadline, can you actually set out for success in achieving them. As an example, a person with a New Year's resolution to "lose weight" is going to have a hard time reaching their goal. Their resolution is so broad and, as a result, they have no strategy, no deadline and no plan. They will inevitably end up feeling frustrated in six months when they've made little progress.

Whereas someone whose goal is “to lose 40 pounds by the end of June before my cousin’s wedding by signing up for a weight-loss program and hiring a personal trainer” is far more likely to succeed. See the difference?

The second person has a deadline they are working toward and a motivation that will light the fire beneath them. They want to look and feel healthy for their cousin’s wedding. Plus, they have a plan (a personal trainer and weight-loss program) that is going to help them get there.

It’s equally as important to set goals that you find challenging but that are also realistic. If you drink two to three cups of coffee every day, going cold turkey is going to be a big challenge for you. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but it could mean that cutting back or adding a coffee replacement for one of those three cups might be the right first step.

Step 3: Break big goals up into digestible chunks

As you consider what is meaningful to you and start outlining your SMART goals, it’s also important to think about the smaller steps that are going to get you there. According to psychologist Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., “Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on Jan. 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for.” 

While our person looking to lose 40 pounds by the end of June has outlined a very SMART New Year’s goal, they still need digestible short-term goals to help them stay on task and be successful. They could schedule a few 5Ks or workout challenges throughout that time, for instance, or set a goal to lose six pounds each month starting in January. 

Your smaller goals are just as important, if not more important, than the larger ones you set for yourself. By having smaller goals that are easier to hit you build confidence in yourself, you set a clearer path to success and you feel less intimidated by the actions you need to take. Suddenly, “I need to lose 40 pounds” becomes “I need to be able to run a 5K” or “I need to lose six pounds.” You can breathe easier by working toward something far less stressful or overwhelming.

Step 4: Build in accountability

If you have not built in ways to hold yourself accountable to your resolutions, you are relying on your pure willpower to make those goals happen. For some people, that’s all that they need. But the average New Year’s resolution maker (the 46 percent of us who never follow through) needs accountability to make things happen. 

While this looks different for everyone, here are some helpful ways to build in accountability to those SMART goals you’ve made for 2021:

  • Tell other people: When you share your resolutions with close friends, family or colleagues, you create a system of supporters. Not only can they help motivate you, but this also adds some extra pressure to make progress. When someone other than yourself is going to ask about your goals, it gives you even more reason to not let them slip away.
  • Ask for help: Consider joining a support group (like a Facebook group of like-minded peers), finding a coach, downloading an app or making a pact with some coworkers or friends. Some goals are challenging to do on your own, so recruiting help can be the perfect first step.
  • Hang up your resolutions: One of the biggest reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail is because you forget about them. Even the most important goals you set for yourself are often deprioritized when the realities of your busy life come crashing down on you. Sometimes it’s important to have a gentle reminder visible to keep your resolutions top of mind. Also, the act of writing them down saves them in your mind as an important priority.
  • Schedule the time: We are all busy but if a goal is important to you, you can make time for it. If you schedule the time on your calendar, you can start to turn the goals into habits that need less thought over time. 
  • Track your progress: This creates a layer of accountability that can help motivate you to stick to a routine. There are a ton of different ways you could track your resolutions. Some people use apps, while others update a note on their phone. You could also take photos or print out a checklist of steps and check them off one by one. Find what works for you!
  • Set up reminders: A ping from your Google calendar or a reminder from one of the apps you are using to track your progress can help motivate or remind you about your resolutions on a day-to-day or weekly basis. Sometimes the visual cues are helpful as you work to build new habits.
  • Lead with your strengths: Are you super competitive? Make your goals into a competition with friends or with yourself. Do you love to journal or write? Write down your goals and make a weekly or daily promise to check in on them. Are you a social butterfly or want-to-be influencer? Share your 2021 New Year’s resolution journey with the world over Instagram and commit to posting a story or post about your progress once a week. Use your strengths to your advantage and get creative with your accountability!

Building a community around your New Year’s resolutions is one of the best ways to hold yourself accountable. For those who are looking to add “cut out coffee” or “find a coffee replacement” to your list of New Year’s resolutions, our MUD\WTR team, in partnership with Dr. Molly, has launched a Coffee Detox Program that has a built-in community to support you in your transition to a better rested and calmer 2021. 

Some of the most important resolutions to us are the ones that will often be the hardest to work toward. That’s where accountability and community come into play. 

Step 5: Accept your missteps, celebrate your wins and adjust as needed

Eating a pint of ice cream does not mean you’ve failed at your New Year’s resolution of eating healthier. Failure is eating a pint of ice cream and using that as your excuse to give up. Setting out to change your habits or behaviors is difficult to do. You are going to make mistakes and you are going to mess up. This is why it’s important to celebrate your small wins throughout the year and forgive yourself for your missteps.

In the grand scheme of your life, the small moments where you messed up or ate a tub of ice cream don’t add up to much. What matters is how you handle yourself after you mess up. Give yourself permission to be human, decide to do better tomorrow, pick yourself up and keep moving on. 

And if things aren’t working? Adjust your plan or your goal! No resolution is written in stone and sometimes what seemed like a smart resolution in January ended up not being realistic by March (looking at you 2020!). We can’t predict the future, so how can you know what resolutions will best fit your life for that coming year? 

Instead of looking at that resolution as a failure, think about how you can adjust or adapt it to fit your life, your schedule or your body. At the end of the day, New Year’s resolutions are all about changing parts of your life for the better. So it doesn’t matter if they change midway through if you are still working toward living a healthier, happier or more fulfilling life. 

Our MUD\WTR takeaway

A new year is a great catalyst for thinking about what change or changes you want in your life. As you write out your 2021 New Year's resolutions, set yourself up for success by being SMART, building in accountability and celebrating your wins along the way. We aren’t saying this is easy, but with the above steps, you are much further along than you might think.

Interested in reducing your dependence on coffee in 2021? Learn more about our MUD\WTR five-week Coffee Detox Program and how you can get support on this resolution today.

By: Megan Clark

Image By: Tim Mossholder

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