As you put pen to paper–in your new bullet journal–and commit your resolutions to memory, you may be newly optimistic. In past years, you might have fallen off the wagon and lost hope. But this year, you tell yourself, will be different; you’ll start waking up earlier and working out daily.
The reality is only about 8% of Americans reportedly keep their New Year’s resolutions. So if you want 2019 to be the year your resolutions stay intact, here are some of our best tips for setting goals you can actually meet and planning ahead for when you might fall off track.
One of the mistakes people make when writing resolutions is not being specific enough or setting unrealistic goals. Our own Anisa Purbasari Horton explains how focusing on attainable “habit goals” helped her achieve milestones that were not even resolutions–such as running a marathon.
Another key to unlocking your goals is repetition–in other words, tricking your brain into creating a new habit. Writing down your resolution once at the beginning of the year may not do the job. Jot down your resolution daily or read it out loud every morning to keep it top of mind.
This may seem simple, but visualizing what you want to accomplish helps familiarize your brain with your resolution. That way, your brain is less likely to perceive that as a “threat” to your usual routine or habits. (A vision board can help do this as well, if you’re so inclined.) The key is to start by visualizing the most difficult resolutions on your list, which will take more willpower–and brain power–than the rest.
It’s possible you aren’t meeting resolutions because you are not tailoring your approach to your personality type. An “obliger,” for example, excels at meeting outside expectations–but not necessarily internal ones. If you need external motivation, you could recruit your friends or family to help hold you accountable, whether that means sharing your professional goals with a group of peers or finding a gym buddy.
It’s safe to say you won’t meet at least one of your resolutions. In fact, about half of us reportedly throw in the towel just one month into pursuing a new resolution. But one of the best ways to keep yourself on track is to not quit, even if–or more realistically, when–you stray from your goal.
If you have never successfully met a resolution, it could be worth reframing your goal for 2019 as an anti-resolution. Sometimes, resolutions can feel daunting because they may address what you think you should be doing, rather than what you genuinely want to be doing. An anti-resolution, on the other hand, is more likely to tackle issues you have mulled over and want to change. “Making an anti-resolution list gives you an opportunity to identify some of the ways you’ve been making your own life harder, and then use that awareness to stop doing (at least one of) those things,” personal development coach Kate Hanley told Fast Company.
So you want to scrap traditional resolutions altogether? Entrepreneur Reshma Chamberlin recommends setting an annual mantra rather than resolutions. To arrive at that mantra, Chamberlin suggests that you listen to your “inner monologue” and take stock of how you want to better yourself. “It’s not a single objective, like going to the gym every day,” she said. “Your mantra is a conscious choice to take control of your life.”