What's Your Resolution? 3 Keys to Success

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Originally posted on January 22, 2015.

At the beginning of each year, millions of people reflect on the previous year and find things they could have done better. Exercised more, eaten healthier, watched less television, drank less alcohol. They vow—most knowing they won’t keep their promise—to make more of the new year, to become their best selves.

Ah, the New Year’s resolution. I’ve made many myself. Many of my resolutions have been health related; when I look back at the previous year, I see where I could have been much healthier. I compare myself to friends who ran more miles, enjoy a slightly leaner physique, and seem to never worry about whether their clothes getting snug. (Last year, for example, a close friend ran over 5,200 miles. That dwarfs my measly 2,525 miles.) Looking at their accomplishments makes me feel sluggish. So I vow to change, and the start of a new year seems like the perfect time to do so.

Unlike many resolution makers, I have had some success with New Year’s resolutions. Here’s why: I really wanted to change and was ready to do so. And that readiness to change is the key ingredient in committing to these self-improvement plans, according to Meg Baker, a wellness expert from the University of Alabama.

Many Americans make resolutions but don’t put a plan in place to successfully carry them out, she says. To increase your likelihood of success, Baker offers three suggestions:

  • Develop small, short-term, realistic goals that will fit into your schedule
  • Consider the benefits and reasons for the change
  • Share your plan with someone with whom you can be accountable

She also suggests that you consider modifying the plan as your needs change. For example, if your new exercise routine has gotten stale, mix it up. During the winter months, I sometimes get stuck running on the treadmill. To keep things interesting, I might spend a day cycling or trying to do a single pull-up. When you’re struggling to stick to it, Baker suggests reflecting on the reasons you made the resolution.

This year, I’m once again vowing to be healthier than I was last year. That means if I really want to see progress, I have to be willing to take the action to bring about change. To kick things off, I spent January 1st running the Hangover Classic 10 mile run in Louisville, KY and, a couple hours later, running the Resolution Run 5 mile run in Lexington, KY.

So here’s to a healthy, happy 2015. What’s your resolution?

About the Author
C. Nathan DeWall is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Social Psychology Lab at the University of Kentucky. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from St. Olaf College, a Master’s Degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago, and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Florida State University. DeWall received the 2011 College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching. In 2011, the Association for Psychological Science identified DeWall as a “Rising Star” for “making significant contributions to the field of psychological science.”