Every January, millions of Americans make resolutions or set goals they are unlikely to keep or accomplish.
They vow to lose weight, eat healthier or start exercising, only to see those resolutions fall by their waistline. Or they may resolve to stop smoking, get more sleep or be better organized, but fail miserably with those lofty aspirations.
About 40 percent of all Americans make resolutions or set goals in January, according to estimates. Of those, less than 10 percent will actually achieve them. The reasons may lie with the goals themselves.
“The key to keeping resolutions is to set reasonable ones to begin with,” says Dr. Anuradha Seshadri, a board-certified internal medicine and pediatric specialist with UCLA Health’s Century City medical practice. “I always advise my patients to start small.”
Dr. Seshadri says that people who vow to make sudden, drastic changes – stop smoking cold turkey or to exercise every day after being sedentary for a while – are likely going to fail. By contrast, she says, those who strive to make small changes – smoke one less cigarette, drink one more glass of water per day or start walking 15 minutes per week – are better positioned for long-term success.
Dr. Seshadri encourages her patients to aim for incremental improvement with their goals. “Set goals or resolutions with realistic time periods for small improvements,” she explains. “There’s always something we can do to improve ourselves, but the focus should be small and steady.”
She offers the following tips for goal-setting:
- Start small.
- Make sure they are realistic and achievable.
- Aim for incremental improvement.
- Focus on the process.
- Use wearable technology to track steps, sleep and overall activity, if appropriate.
- Use the “buddy system.”
Those who work on their resolutions or goals with someone else are far more likely to achieve them, Dr. Seshadri says. But don’t forget to cut yourself some slack.
“If you slip up, don’t quit,” she adds. “Regroup and resume pursuing your goal.”