Ah, those infamous New Year’s resolutions… Do you tend to make – and break – the same resolutions every year? If so, you’re not alone. According to U.S. News and World Report, 80% of us will fail. One study even credits January 17 as the day that most people will bail on their fitness resolutions. So, what gives? Are we weak or are our resolutions unrealistic? It turns out that setting resolutions is a bit more complex than we’re led to believe. Though we have good intentions, new habits are not born overnight.

Let’s make this year different (read: successful) with goals that are clear – not vague – and more likely to become new behaviors. Here’s how: break your resolution into small steps. By setting smaller goals, you’ll see progress quicker and be encouraged to stick with it. 

Change Your Diet with Small Steps

Rather than making a resolution to lose 20 pounds in a month, create a plan that’s more realistic. Start by resolving to eat less sugar. Rather than eliminating everything sweet on day one (and hating life by day three), you can change your habits in baby steps. Tackle one behavior that has held you back, conquer it and then attack another one.

For example, switch from drinking sugary soda to sparkling water or unsweetened iced tea. Or, maybe you don’t have a soda habit (which is great, if you don’t!) but you have a dessert-like, triple venti-size coffee drink every day with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle. Try substituting coffee with skim milk or even cutting back to one per week as a reward. Make note of the money you’re saving by not indulging in a sugary soda or coffeehouse treat. Your wallet will appreciate the change too (pun intended)!

Create a Fitness Routine with Small Steps

You can take the same approach with exercise. Say you set a goal of bike riding four times per week. That’s great but not if you don’t take your existing lifestyle into account. Suppose you end up having to work overtime three nights in the first week and it rains the other two times you try to go out. Sometimes, you can have the best intentions but not be able to execute such a big change right away. Rather than getting discouraged and giving up, channel your fitness goals into small, easily achievable steps. Your body will also thank you for starting small.

The physical strain from taking on a radical change of pace can result in injury and end your new workout plan before it begins! Why not start out by resolving to move more? It’s easier to fit in 30 minutes of walking every day. If you’re stuck indoors, you can break it up into three 10-minute breaks, walking the stairs at work and doing laps around the supermarket or parking lot, if you absolutely have to. Even this simple change can boost your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Change your Stress Level in Small Steps

Saying that you resolve to reduce stress without getting more specific is like setting yourself up to fail right away. Unless you have also decided to quit your job and move to an island, it’s going to be hard to relax on demand. And, if you do quit your job, you’ll need a back-up plan or it will only add more stress to your day. However, there are some small steps you can take to help you reduce stress. You can try meditating for five minutes a day and build up from there.

You can also set a time every day that you will unplug before bed. Speaking of bed, make sure you pencil in your bedtime on your schedule every day. When you write things down, it becomes a priority – just like your other meetings and appointments.

Celebrate your successes

Make sure to set up a reward system that provides positive reinforcement for reaching each small step. Gift yourself with a foot massage or a pair of sunglasses – something that will keep your motivation high and keep you on track to achieving that final goal. 

Here’s another tip: Get a physical at YourTown Health so you can document your “before” numbers. It will be a great way to see your progress. If you’d like more ideas or would like to make an appointment at one of our clinics.