Studies have shown that 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Sadly, though, only 8 percent of those actually achieve their resolution.
Sadder still, 25 percent who make resolution don’t stick with it for more than a week.
The problem might be a lack of willpower, or setting expectations too high. The problem could also be that one isn’t actually ready to make such a big change.
There are five main stages related to changing a behavior that a person must go through.
The first is pre-contemplation. For those of you looking to make a New Year’s resolution, you are most likely past this stage. This is for those who see nothing wrong with their current behavior and have no interest in changing.
Next is contemplation, the stage most people are in. If this is you, you are seriously thinking about making a change within the next six months but have yet to make an actual commitment.
The third stage of change is the most important: preparation. When making a resolution, most people completely skip this stage. They jump right from contemplation into the fourth stage, which is action. But without preparing a plan of action, you will most likely be unsuccessful with sticking with your resolution.
Preparation can look completely different from one person to the next. If your resolution is to start saving more money, it could be creating a detailed budget of bills and living expenses and finding places where you can cut spending.
If your resolution is to lose weight, preparation could include joining a gym, finding fitness classes around town that fit into your schedule or saving money to have several sessions with a personal trainer.
If you want to start eating healthier this next year, your preparation stage could be sitting down with your family and ensuring they’re on board to start cooking healthy meals for dinner.
When preparing to make a change, it is a smart idea to start implementing minor modifications in your everyday life. This can make the big change seem a little easier and less overwhelming. If your goal for 2014 is to quit smoking, cutting the number of cigarettes you smoke each day could be a first step.
Preparation could also involve creating a list of reasons that this change is important to you, or even writing a pros and cons list. Post this list where you will see it every day. It will help to hold you accountable and hopefully keep you motivated.
Another way to prepare for a change is to find support.
I already mentioned having your family on board to eat more healthfully. You could also find a friend who already exercises, or who wants to start exercising, and make dates to go for walks or go to the gym together.
It is incredibly beneficial to have another person available to hold you accountable, rather than just relying on yourself for this. A study out of Indiana University found that people who worked out on their own had a 43 percent dropout rate, compared to 6.3 percent for those who exercised with a partner. Even just having someone call you to check on how you’re doing can be helpful.
Once you have spent up to six months preparing for the transformation and making these small changes in your everyday life, it is time to take action and implement your plan.
The action stage is the most unstable one in behavior modification. This is where relapse is most likely. If relapse does occur, recognize it, don’t beat yourself up about it, and figure out a new plan of action.
The final stage of change is maintenance. This occurs when the change has been consistent for at least six months and has become routine. The maintenance can and should last the remainder of your life. This is the ultimate goal.
Don’t think of the New Year as a time to make a resolution and jump right into it. Think of it as a time to start preparing for a change and creating a plan of action.
Placing too much emphasis on “New Year, New Me” is detrimental. If you fall of the wagon early on, you feel that you have to wait for the next year or next big event to try again.
Leslie Snyder is senior program director of Healthy Living at the Walla Walla YMCA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.