New Year's resolutions not going so well? Now's the time to give them a reboot—or trade them for goals you'll actually achieve!
When you set that lofty New Year's resolution at the stroke of 2017 (with a glass of champagne in your hand during the height of the holiday craze), March probably looked a lot different in your head: You'd be fitter, slimmer, happier, healthier.
"People make their resolutions in a 'bubble' of overindulgence," says Michelle Segar, Ph.D., a motivation scientist and author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. "This creates a false sense of motivation to change." So once life gets back to normal and you're a few months removed from said holiday madness? "New Year's Resolutions fade in comparison to the goals that are most urgent in the current moment." (Like, you know, work deadlines.)
And, no, you're not crazy: Motivation does have a way of fizzling. "Motivation can help you get started, but you need to create habits in order to be successful," says Paul Marciano, Ph.D., author of Carrots and Sticks Don't Work.
So here we are in March. Instead of beating yourself up because the scale hasn't budged or because you're still waiting for those abs to peek out, consider this the perfect time to reassess and ditch what isn't working for you—that's the only way to guarantee success come December 31, 2017.
Not coincidentally, this is also the March theme of our #MyPersonalBest program: Cut through all the noise and stop doing the things that (a) you don't enjoy and (b) aren't serving you. There's no shame in reframing your resolution. Who says you can only make goals in January? Pausing—especially at seasonal changes—can be helpful in making behavioral changes that stick, Segar says. So can these three techniques.
Find the Why
To zero in on a better goal, go to the source: your why for doing it, says Segar. You want to determine if your core motivation is simply because you think you should do something (run a 5K because everyone else is, even if you hate running), or if it's something you want from the bottom of your heart (you love yoga but haven't had time for it). The latter are the goals you'll stick with. If your New Year's resolution was in the former category, go ahead and find another one.
Link New Behaviors with Old Ones
Even if you have a solid goal you care about, it can still be difficult to form those habits we mentioned earlier. Try linking your new goal to an already well-established behavior, suggests Marciano. For example, if your goal is to make more time for exercise, link exercising to a habit you already have. You brush your teeth every morning, right? Then, knock out 25 push-ups beforehand. Soon, you'll start linking push-ups with teeth-brushing, which makes you more likely to keep up with the habit, says Marciano.
Get Out of Your Common Zone
"The idea of getting out of your comfort zone can be intimidating," says Marciano. It makes it sound like you're doing crazy things every day. But real change comes from the little things, which is why Marciano suggests getting out of your common zone instead. Mix it up in small ways: Walk your dog more, try one new workout every week. "Putting this into practice will help re-shape your mindset," says Marciano. "It's really good for your brain when you say, 'Let me just tweak this in some way.'" Stepping away from your common zone also adds an element of fun—something that research suggests can keep you motivated to stay on track.