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10 successful strategies for keeping your New Year’s resolutions

Lots of athletes make New Year’s resolutions, like Ryan Lochte. You know Ryan Lochte? Twelve Olympic medals in swimming: he’d be really famous if it wasn’t for another guy called Michael Phelps. Anyway, Ryan Lochte made a New Year’s resolution to stop drinking soft drinks. Good goal, but hard, especially for an American. So how did it go Ryan?


I tried to not do soda. I failed at the very end of the year. I was doing so well — I don’t know what happened. I was eating pizza one time. I was dying of thirst, and I just saw soda right next to me and was like, “Alright, I’m doin’ it.” I did it, and I was just like… FAIL. That’s my weakness: all sodas.



However, I think Ryan should give himself some credit. Making it for nearly a year is a lot better than what most people manage. FranklinCovey found that 80% of New Year’s resolutions are broken, and one-third don’t even make it past the end of January. 


So how are you going to make your New Year’s resolutions stick?

1. Make sure your resolution is something you really want to do, and not just something you think you should do, or something someone else wants you to do.

We all know we should drink less soft drink, but really, do you want to? Is this a goal that you can really be committed to? Economist Austin Frakt suggests asking two questions about your resolution:

Why don’t I do this already?

Why do I feel the need to do this now? 

The first question is practical; it seeks the barrier. The second is emotional; it seeks the motivation necessary to sustain an effort to remove the barrier. I might as well not initiate a resolution unless I can target the right obstacle and have sufficient desire to overcome it. Without those, the resolution is doomed from the start.


2. Think SMART.

If you’ve ever heard anything about goal-setting, then you’ve heard about SMART, right? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Actually there are a number of different versions of SMART. Did you know that the S can also stand for Stretching, and the R for rewarding?  If you want to achieve goals, then they need to be things that you can control and they need to be specific. ‘To win more medals than Michael Phelps’ isn’t really under your control (and maybe not that realistic), so it’s better to think about the steps to get there that you can control. ‘Never ever drinking another drop of soft drink for the rest of my life’ isn’t very realistic, and invites failure. ‘Drinking less soft drink’ probably isn’t specific enough, as drinking one less in a whole year would qualify.


3. Have a plan.

It’s an oldie but a goodie: Fail to plan, plan to fail. Think about what you are practically going to do to achieve your goal. So how are you going to approach giving up soft drink? Cold turkey, or gradual withdrawal? What are you going to do with the soft drink that you currently have in your house? Leave it there and trust your willpower? What will you do when someone offers you a coke? What can you do to help yourself stay motivated?


4. Understand why you do what you do.

You might ask yourself why you drink soft drinks. Because all your friends do and it makes you feel part of the group? Because you’re tired and it perks you up? Or because you like the taste? Because you can’t have pizza without soft drink? Because it’s there and it’s easy? Asking yourself this question will give you insight into your behaviour and help you come up with a plan that will work.


5. Don’t just try to stop bad habits, replace them with something else.

It’s really hard to just stop doing something which is a habit. That leaves a void, so it’s important to fill the void with something positive. In your plan, figure out what you are going to drink instead of soft drink. Make sure the alternative is something you enjoy, and make it readily available.


6. Avoid temptation.

Think in advance about situations when you are likely to be tempted to break your resolution. Determine to walk right past the supermarket soft drink aisle, don’t even cast a glance down there. Maybe you need to avoid for a while that place where you always drink soft drinks with your mates.


7. Reward yourself.

Plan some kind of reward for sticking to your goal. Reward yourself even for small steps you take. Buy yourself an ice cream if you’ve gone a week without soft drink, and give yourself bigger rewards for bigger achievements. You could put a dollar into a jar for every soft drink you don’t drink, and spend that money on something nice.


8. Allow for mistakes.

You don’t have to be a perfectionist. One slip-up doesn’t mean you’ve failed and you should give up, Ryan Lochte! Focus on what you have achieved that’s been good, rather than your one mistake. Learn from your mistake and try again.


9. Make adjustments.

Be prepared to adjust your plan as you go along. Over time you will learn what things are helpful and what aren’t.


10. Get help.

Find friends who will encourage you and hold you accountable. Maybe there’s even a Soda Drinkers Anonymous group in your area. Maybe you could work on your goal together with a friend, or with your whole team. A Sports Chaplain is a good person to help you stick to your resolutions, so feel free to contact us for help. There are also many free goal-setting apps that you might like to try, such as StickK or Habit Tracker.

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What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Author Info

Rebecca Hawkins

Rebecca is the Communications and IT Manager for Sports Chaplaincy NZ. In her younger days she played cricket and football with great enthusiasm but very little skill. Now she spends a lot of time supporting her four sons in their sport. She especially loves scoring their cricket matches, which she insists on doing the old fashioned way, with pen and paper.

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