How to stick with a New Year’s resolution

By Iris Marzolf

Only about 9 percent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions, according to Forbes magazine and Business Insider. Eighty percent give up by the second week of February.

Why do so many people fail to achieve their resolutions?

Choosing to pursue a year-long goal is daunting even to me, and I’ve already done it. At the beginning of 2017, I decided I was going to participate in a photo-a-day challenge. Each day, I took and/or edited a photo and uploaded it to Instagram. I managed to do this for the entire year without missing a day — even while my phone was broken for a brief period after falling from a roller coaster.

How is it possible to be committed to something for 365 consecutive days? Here’s what I learned:

Determine why you want to pursue your resolution.

Maybe you want to save money, but why? Because it’ll make you feel financially secure? Because you want to go on a vacation? How will it improve your life? How will you benefit? Knowing the answers to these questions will give you a goal to work toward.

For my resolution, I wanted to be creative. Throughout the challenge, I continually reminded myself that at the end I would have an extensive body of work — something concrete that would show my hard work and determination.

Don’t give up, in spite of setbacks.

Every New Year’s resolution should come with an unofficial resolution: to stick to your New Year’s resolution no matter the missteps. If you’ve resolved to be more active and go to the gym three times a week but miss one day, make it up the next week. Some fellow participants in my photography challenge would miss posting their photo and they would simply post it the next day. A few small failures doesn’t mean your entire New Year’s resolution should be forfeited. It just means that life happens. The perseverance is what matters because you are essentially forming or changing a habit, which takes time.

Form a community for encouragement.

Support from friends, family or others who are pursuing a New Year’s resolution is essential. If you have people surrounding you who expect you to maintain your commitment, then you’ll be more motivated to succeed. I was participating in the photo challenge with a group of about 60 other people on Instagram. We would leave nice comments and words of encouragement on one another’s posts. Seeing other people persevere and excel made me determined to keep going. If they could do it, then I could do it, too.

Use rewards and incentives to reflect your progress.

Setting periodic goals that you can meet throughout the year breaks it up and makes achieving your resolution more doable. It also gives you the chance to recognize the progress you’ve made and how far you’ve already come. Acknowledging your success can give you motivation to continue. During the photo challenge, participants had the chance to have our photos selected for a feature, depending on how creative or striking our photo was. This not only pushed us to improve our photography, but it also was rewarding to be chosen.

Many are discouraged from starting or continuing a New Year’s resolution because it seems like an impossibly grand commitment. However, it’s important to not think of it as an insurmountable task. Following these steps can help you stick to your resolution and ultimately achieve self improvement.