Saint Louis University

Author: Erin Jones
Published: Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy New Year! Have you already made your New Year’s resolution for 2013? If you have, then you are one of the 50% of Americans who did. Speaking of resolutions… What became of your resolution for 2012? For most who vow annually to improve themselves one way or another, only a small percentage are successful in reaching their goal. So what’s their secret? How can you set yourself up for success this year? Oh, and who even started this whole resolution thing anyway?

Making resolutions for the New Year has been practiced for at least 4 millennia. The earliest record of festivities date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. Initial resolutions reflected pleasing gods and improving morals and character. In fact, up until the end of the 19th century, teenage girls focused improving their internal character and work ethic. Nowadays, physical appearance (such as losing weight) is one of the most popular resolutions.

You’d think that this long history of resolution setting would bring us great knowledge of how to be successful and achieve the goals we set. The University of Scranton suggests that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolution. So what is the other 92% doing wrong? If it’s any consolation, several studies suggest that our brains are not wired to make rational decisions when it is in “cognitive overload” or faced with too many choices.

How can you give yourself a fighting chance at success this year? The key to achieving your New Year’s resolution, or any lifestyle change for that matter, is to keep it simple and have a plan. Sit down and map out what your goals is, how you will accomplish it, and how to handle any tough situations that might arise. A great way to accomplish this is to set a SMART goal. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound. As SLU Dietetic Interns, we have extensive knowledge of how to create and use SMART goals when working with patients. So consider this a free counseling session!

Choose one behavior to work on. Don’t stress yourself out with 2, 5, 10, 50 resolutions. You are only setting yourself up for failure. Besides, you’ll need some resolutions for next year and the year after.
Example: Exercise more

Be as specific as you can. Make it clear to yourself exactly what is expected. You will likely answer what, where, when, why, which, and how.
Example: After work, I will exercise at home by lifting weights and doing exercise videos.

The sweet taste of success. Setting goals for “how much” and “how many” will help you measure your progress and stay on track. You will know when you have succeeded.
Example: Two days a week after work (Mondays and Wednesday from 6-7pm), I will exercise at home for one hour by lifting weights and doing exercise videos.

Give yourself a chance. You will be more motivated to work toward a goal that you know you can accomplish. The more goals you achieve, the more you will want to achieve… and your self-esteem will thank you.
Example: Yes, I feel that lifting weights and/or doing exercise videos 2 times per week at home from 6-7 pm is realistic and attainable.

You gotta care. Align your resolution with what is important to you, whether it is your health, well-being, or financial situation.
Example: I am very concerned about specific aspects of my health, and I feel that lifting weights and/or doing exercise videos 2 times per week at home from 6-7 pm will improve my health and well-being.

Set a date. Set a realistic time frame in which you will accomplish your resolution. Yes, choose a specific date on the calendar. This will motivate you to begin practicing your goals and will keep you motivated right up to the end.
Example: By April 1st, 2013, I will be exercising at home after work two days a week nearly every week (Mondays and Wednesday from 6-7pm) for one hour by lifting weights and doing exercise videos.

Lastly, it’s your resolution and you can revise it at any time if you feel that it’s not realistic. This doesn't mean you shouldn't challenge yourself though. Consider sharing your resolution with someone who knows you well and can give you objective advice to fine tune your plan. Sharing your resolution will add an extra layer of accountability. And who knows? They may also want to join you!

Good luck and best wishes for 2013!