10 Ways to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Stick
10 ways to stay strong in the face of tempting cupcakes, pricey shoes, and the urge to hit the snooze button instead of the gym.
1. Give It a Workout continued...
To try this at home, squeeze a grip strengthener (available at sporting-goods stores for under $10) or a rubber ball till it becomes uncomfortable, then hold as long as you can. Repeat at least twice a day. Or, flex your self-control emotionally by trying not to tear up during a sad movie.
Just don't expect to become the Wonder Woman of Willpower, advises psychologist and study author Mark Muraven, Ph.D. As with a muscle, push too hard or under conditions that are too challenging, and your resolve (like an overworked hamstring) will collapse. "If you're very hungry, I can't imagine that any amount of willpower will keep you from eating a cupcake," Muraven says.
2. Make One Change at a Time
Once you understand that you have only a limited amount of willpower, it's easy to understand why multiple resolutions aren't likely to work, says Ian Newby-Clark, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Guelph in Canada. Most resolutions actually require many behavior changes. Sure, some are straightforward, like remembering to take a calcium pill every day — but a successful weight-loss program, for example, calls for more than just a decision to eat less. You have to shop and cook differently, start or ramp up an exercise routine, maybe even ditch certain social or family events. "Thinking through these substrategies boosts success rates," says Newby-Clark. "But it would take too much attention and vigilance to do all that and also decide it's time to brush your teeth for the full two minutes and become better informed about world events."
3. Break It Up
Since your supply of self-control is finite, make resolutions that require small acts of will, not weeks of vigilance. " 'Lose 10 pounds' sounds specific, but it's less likely to work than behavioral goals like 'This week I'll try to go to the gym three times, take the stairs at work at least twice, and bring a healthy lunch every day,' " says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in Washington, DC, and author of the "Baggage Check" column for the Washington Post Express. You'll feel good when you accomplish each goal, and your success will help bolster your resolve: The better you are at making small changes, the easier it will be for you to keep going.