Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About New Year’s Resolutions And Follow These Steps If You Want To Stick To Them

December 16, 2020 By Justin Lessner

These are crazy times — there’s no denying that reality. And as we finally approach the end of 2020, many of us are looking full steam ahead to 2021 as a fresh start. 

Do you have a New Year’s resolution or goal for the new year? Did you have to put off your 2020 goals because of COVID-19? Has the pandemic given you a new perspective that makes your resolutions — or how you plan to achieve them — different than what you might have done in the past? Well, you’re not alone. 

Americans are ditching the traditional New Year’s resolutions as fewer focus on going to the gym or losing weight. Instead, people are more focused on saving money or learning a new skill. People are changing their goals to help them cope with our “new normal.”

But regardless of what you hope to achieve in 2021, there are very real, scientific tips that will help you meet those goals – whatever they may be.

2020 has been such a tough year that it’s actually changing people’s goals for the future — and their New Year’s resolutions.

Whether it was the Coronavirus pandemic that subsumed basically all news beginning in March, or the racial unrest that culminated in a growing Black Lives Matter movement, killer hornets that invaded the U.S., or the never ending presidential election, 2020 has been a wild year. And it’s having real affects on people’s vision for their future. It’s also forcing us to reevaluate what’s important to us. So it makes sense that all this drama could also affect our plans for the new year. 

According to a survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Affirm, seven in 10 Americans are tossing out their materialistic New Year’s resolutions for 2021. In fact, some of the top New Year’s resolutions for 2021 include saving money for the future (62%) and learning a new skill (50%), instead of going to the gym or losing weight. Sixty-eight percent of respondents shared they want to move away from “traditional” resolutions to focus more on experiences — like spending more time with their family (53%) and traveling more (49%).

Reflecting on such a difficult year, it makes sense that respondents are approaching their 2021 resolutions differently — in fact, 65 percent don’t even plan on looking at these as “resolutions” but rather “intentions” for the new year.

Regardless of your intentions for 2021, there are very real steps you can take to make them come true.

How many of us sit down and talk about all the things we want to stop doing or want to change in the New Year? Often times we focus on the negative, saying things like “I want to stop wasting time on TV” instead of “I’d like to read more books” or “I’d like to start running.”

Well, it turns out that the way we phrase our New Year’s resolution could give us a slight edge as to whether or not we’ll stick to the new habit, according to a study published Wednesday in the open-access journal PLOS One.

Researchers at Stockholm University and Linköping University in Sweden analyzed resolutions made by 1,066 people. The team divided participants into three groups — people who got no support, limited support and extended support — and checked in each month throughout the year to see how well the subjects were staying true to their resolutions.

“What surprised us were the results on how to phrase your resolution,” said lead study author Per Carlbring, a professor of psychology at Stockholm University, in a news release. “The support given to the participants did not make much of a difference when it came down to how well participants kept their resolutions throughout the year.”

Changing your  approach to New Year’s resolutions could be key to your success.

After a year, 59% of those who framed their resolution as an approach goal (“I will run more”) has kept to their habit, while just 47% of the avoiders (“I will quit chocolate,” for instance) had succeeded.

“In many cases, rephrasing your resolution could definitely work,” Carlbring said in the statement. “For example, if your goal is to stop eating sweets in order to lose weight, you will most likely be more successful if you say, ‘I will eat fruit several times a day’ instead.

This study jibes with other psychology research which suggests it’s much easier for people to start stuff, than quit it. The minute you place a limitation on a particular action — drinking beer or watching Netflix — the brain can fixate on that “forbidden fruit.” By sheer will power, it’s extremely difficult to suppress cravings.

Instead, give your brain another tempting alternative and bake cues during the day. If you’re trying to stop sweets, stock the fridge with extra fruit. If you want to be less sedentary, try out a new workout class and set reminders on your phone.

As the rollercoaster of 2020 comes to a close, build in some reflection time to not only think about what you want to change, but what you are grateful for. Then, intentionally frame resolutions in a way that sets you up for sustainable success. Your future self will thank you.