According to an infographic by the online investment company, Betterment.com, about 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. 47% are related to self-improvement, especially those regarding health, diet and fitness – “eat healthy,” “drink less,” “quit smoking.” 38% are directly related to weight. 34% are related to money – “manage debt,” “spend less” – and 31% to relationships – “find love,” “spend more time with family and friends.” Other popular resolutions include “go back to school,” “find a better job,” “travel,” “get organized,” “manage stress,” “learn something new,” and “volunteer.”
However, Betterment.com also reports that only about 8% of us successfully achieve our resolutions and 25% don’t make it past the first week. Why is this? While it’s very easy to make goals when we’re excited about the future, we often “overestimate our ability to make good decisions” and soon enough, our emotions overpower our willpower.
Willpower is now better understood than it used to be. Studies have found that willpower is an actual mental energy, one that fluctuates and decreases along with energy loss and the act of self-control. In other words, continually resisting desires will deplete the energy required to exercise your willpower. The good news is that there are strategies to help conserve your willpower energy, as well as ways to increase willpower stamina. For example, those who struggle with willpower and self-control are often advised to create a temptation-free environment and lifestyle, in order to avoid becoming drained by constantly resisting their bad habits.
Betterment.com’s infographic also outlines a few strategies and digital tools that have proven to be helpful in achieving your resolutions. Among the strategies listed are making your goals specific, breaking them down into manageable steps and finding ways to get accountable. Those who avoid vague resolutions are ten times more likely to achieve their goals. Other helpful strategies include taking on only one goal at a time, planning and scheduling each individual step in your goal and keeping track of your progress.
Social media, websites and apps now make it easier than ever to reach your goals. These tools offer various ways to help you maintain accountability and keep you on schedule. Wunderlist is an app that allows you to create and manage to-do lists, set due dates and reminders, track your progress, share your goals with others and more. Through the app Beeminder, you can graph your goals and receive reminders to stick with them. If you veer off track, you pay a fee. Stickk.com is a website where you create a “commitment contract.” The site allows you to name a referee and choose a penalty for failure. Penalties can include financial contracts, where you shell out your own money to a person or organization of your choosing. One option is to donate your money to an anti-charity – that is, a charity whose philosophy greatly opposes your own.
Are you successful when you make New Year’s Resolutions? If so, what strategies do you find most helpful?