What is it about a new year that makes us all want to change? Most of us have every intention of making a fresh start once December ends, but as soon as that first temptation comes along, our determination is really tested. Less than 25% of people who make resolutions end up following through with them, and it’s no surprise that the ones that are broken the most frequently are the ones that we make the most often. You’ve probably found these promises on your list sometime in your life, but how many times have you actually kept them.
- Lose weight: With the pressure of holiday turkey and candy pushing our stomachs over the top of our pants, weight loss is at the front of our minds going into the new year. With the eating season over, it seems like the perfect time to start a diet or work out to shed the pounds. Gym memberships see a jump as high as 25% in January with the New Year’s surge in motivation, but as many as 60% of new members stop using the gym after a few months. Since many gyms crank up their prices in January, make sure you’re serious about your weight loss before paying through the nose. To be successful with this resolution, experts suggest coming up with a concrete plan, like committing to exercise three times a week and eat smaller portions, and breaking your goal into smaller achievements that you will accomplish throughout the year.
- Paying off debt and saving money: Of course, in this economy, buying a ton of Christmas presents and traveling all over the country for the holidays has most people feeling pretty poor by the time January rolls around. In 2011, 43% of Americans were making financially motivated resolutions, like paying off credit cards or making an emergency fund. Changing your money habits, though, can be as tough or tougher than going on a diet because it can affect all areas of your life. People often cave on their resolutions after they realize that it can mean anything from cutting back on Starbucks to moving to a more affordable home. One way to make sure your financial promise sticks is to set up contributions directly to a savings account so the funds are automatically separated from your spending money and you don’t even have a chance to talk yourself into that extra pair of shoes or dinner out.
- Quit smoking: The CDC says that 43% of smokers tried to quit in 2008, the most recent data year. It’s safe to say many of these smokers made it their New Year’s resolution to kick the habit for good. Statistically, though, only about 10% of those who try to quit smoking are successful in the long run. The health benefits of throwing out your tobacco are obvious and enormous, but nicotine has a way of hooking people. There are ways, though, to give yourself the best chances, including weaning yourself off cigarettes by using a substitute like a patch or gum. Some studies show that people are 25% more likely to stay smoke-free if they give themselves a penalty for not following through, like having to pay a certain amount of money to someone. So go ahead and bet your brother $1,000 that you can quit smoking. It might just help you succeed.
- Get organized: Do you throw everything into your closet or under your bed when guests come over? Can you remember the last time you went through your junk drawer? Do you have to retrace your steps multiple times every day to figure out where you left something? You sound like the kind of person who has made this resolution year after year. While it’s a great idea to get your affairs in order, it’s normally not as easy as it sounds. When people look at the daunting task in front of them, they often just give up. Instead, if you really want to organize your house and life, you should break up the issue into smaller, easy-to-handle tasks and give yourself short deadlines for each one. This will make you more likely to follow through, and if you end up quitting halfway through the year, at least you’ll have accomplished something!
- Find a new job: At the beginning of 2011, an insanely large percentage (84%) of people resolved to find a new job within the year. Some were unsatisfied with their positions and lack of promotion opportunities; others felt like they weren’t being paid enough and wouldn’t likely get a raise any time soon. The problem with this resolution is that there just aren’t enough jobs to be had for more than 3/4 of the U.S. workforce to switch to a new one. Searching for a new job in a slow economy can be incredibly frustrating, so it’s no wonder most people couldn’t keep this promise to themselves. If you find yourself stuck in a job you hate and can’t seem to find your next position, think about what you really want from a new job. If it’s money, consider freelancing on the side or rethink your money habits until you find your next move. If you’re looking for more creative freedom, find a hobby or a project that can keep you fulfilled until you land a new job.
- Spend more time with family: When you’ve had a nice time with your extended family, you might think you’d like to see them more throughout the rest of the year. If you’ve been bogged down at work, you might also like to spend more quality time with your spouse and kids. It’s all nice in theory, but it’s harder to pull off than you probably anticipate. When family members live far away, you have to coordinate work schedules, use vacation days, and pay for flights to get together. Also, heavy work loads don’t often slow down when you want them to. If you want to keep this resolution, you should start planning now. Flights are cheaper and vacation days are easier to get off when you schedule them months ahead. For quality time at home with your family, start having weekly game or date nights or reserve a small amount of time each day to go outside and play with the kids.
- Learn something new: This common resolution is so ambiguous, it’s hard to see it through. You probably have something in mind when you tell yourself on New Year’s Day that this is the year that you expand your horizons, but you also need to have an idea of how you’re going to accomplish this goal going into it. You’ve probably already mastered the skills you actually need in life, so you’re going to have to put effort into the more obscure ones. If you want to learn a language, you realistically need to join a class or group so you can practice speaking and listening to it. If you want to learn to woodwork, you’ll have to buy all the equipment and learn how to use it safely. It’s easy to see how learning one new thing can quickly become overwhelming. Some travel sites suggest making a vacation out of the learning experience and take a trip to a place where you can devote a week or two to the skill while still having fun.
- Volunteer: Volunteering your time to help others in need seems like a good idea while you’re still feeling warm and fuzzy from the Christmas spirit. Well, it is a good idea, but it’s not one that’s commonly followed through on. With most of the other resolutions, there’s a goal that you’ll hopefully reach in the end after you’ve dedicated your time to it. Volunteering begins to slip down your priority list since you don’t see any real benefits, and when you find out that many organizations require paperwork and training before you can do your good deeds, you might just give up. For the best chances, volunteer with a group you’re already part of, like your church or kid’s school.
- Drink less: Drinking less probably weighs heavy on your pounding mind right after your rocking New Year’s parties, but many people forget about their cruel hangovers as soon as the next party invite comes along. It can be easy to lose track of how many drinks you’ve had once you start throwing them back, making it almost impossible to consume less. The solution to keeping this resolution comes before you set foot in a bar or party. Figure out exactly why you want to drink less so you can remind yourself of it throughout the night and before you go out, set a limit to how many drinks you’re going to have and don’t stray from it. If possible, have someone with you who will keep you accountable or you could just volunteer to be the designated driver.
- Fall in love: It’s probably obvious why this is a terrible New Year’s resolution. If you’re single, it’s not because you’ve never vowed to fall in love before, like it’s that easy to just promise yourself you’ll find “the one” in the next 12 months. Falling in love takes two people who can meet each other’s needs and are ready for a committed relationship, and there really aren’t any shortcuts to finding it. If your goal is to find someone this year, the only thing you can really do is to become the best version of yourself you can and put yourself out there. Figure out exactly what you want out of a relationship and work on becoming a more patient, kind individual — the kind of person you would want to date. Then start moving outside of your comfort zone to meet new people and be brave when making your move.