New Year's Resolution: To February and Beyond

It’s early January — do you know where your resolution is? At this early stage in the New Year, you probably have a good sense of what it is that you resolved to change and are quite possibly making it happen. But where will your resolution stand on February 1?

“About 75 percent are successful in keeping their New Year’s resolutions for a couple of weeks,” says John Norcross, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton. Even with a strong start, most people have completely abandoned their resolutions by the beginning of February.

What kind of resolve is that?

New Year’s resolutions “are good intentions that rarely have much impact,” says Albert Bandura, professor of psychology at Stanford University, “Because they’re too general and too distant.”

Changing how you think about a resolution is the first step to sticking to it. With the right attitude and determination, you can carry your resolution deep into spring.

Resolution tips:

  • Ramp up slowly. “Aim modestly and realistically and then build on that,” Norcross says. Will you really cut chocolate completely out of your life?
  • Resolve to change habits, not reach arbitrary goals. Set short-term challenges to keep yourself motivated. “In successful self-change, you have to break these distant goals into small steps,” Bandura says.
  • Believe in yourself. ”Unless people believe they can succeed, they have little incentive to act or persevere when faced with difficulties,” Bandura says.
  • Expect slips. Most people slip in the first two weeks. Those who succeed view these slips as nothing more than proof that they should work harder. Those who ultimately fail misinterpret their slips as “evidence of their inability to maintain their habit change,” Norcross says.
  • Card it. Norcross advises his patients to carry an index card with a five-point list of steps to extricate themselves from a slip on one side and reminders of why their resolution is important on the other.
  • Act now. “We are really well-practiced at putting off what needs to be done under the illusion that we will have more time tomorrow,” Bandura says.

What’s the longest you’ve stuck to a resolution?


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