Sara Dolan
Sara Dolan

Although Jan. 1 is a popular day to begin work on changing our behavior, there isn’t much that is special about that day. The best time to make a behavior change is whenever you are ready. You can start working toward a goal whenever you have the motivation.

Many people fail when setting New Year’s resolutions. Some estimates are as high as 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions being dropped by March. Here are some tips to increase the likelihood of success:

Figure out why you want to make this change. The more you want to make the change for yourself, the easier it is to initiate and maintain that change.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals*

S Make the goal specific. Broad goals are much harder to achieve.
M Identify how you will measure your progress toward the goal and keep track of those metrics.
A Set yourself up for success with a goal that is attainable.
R Make the goal relevant for your life.
T Set a specific time frame for accomplishing your goal.

Start with a small, manageable goal with easily tracked metrics. You want to start with a goal that allows you to experience success. Once you have had some success, you can build momentum and set additional smaller goals that move you closer and closer to your ultimate goal for behavior change.

Accountability helps. Share your goal with someone you trust to hold you accountable in a loving way.

Recognize that struggling is a part of the process. It is disappointing when we start to fall away from our plan, but it is normal to struggle. Behavior change is hard; if it were easy, we wouldn’t need to go through the process of making a “resolution” to change. When you do struggle, show yourself compassion and get back to it.

We should not expect a “normal” start to the new year. Levels of stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression are higher than usual, and we may have fewer internal resources for sustainable behavior change. That does not mean we should not set resolutions, but it does mean we may need to take these heightened emotions into context when we do set goals for behavior change. Self-compassion is more important than usual this year. Have confidence — and faith — and enjoy your journey.

*Doran, G. T. (1981). Management Review.