It's. That. Time.
Mid-January: That make-or-break, do-or-die, go-to-the-gym-or-watch-your-resolutions-whither time of year. Sigh.
Why is it that New Year's resolutions are so exciting and motivating for the first few days, only to turn into dreaded obligations that can go from making you feel like a rock star to a failure practically overnight? And how do you keep them on your side…when all you really feel like doing is curling up on the couch with cereal and a new episode of Girls?
You. Can. Do it. Here's how to stick to your resolution that has the potential to make you feel awesome if only you'd keep going…even when you really, really want to quit.
1. Track your progress.
Hacking away at a goal can be really demoralizing in the beginning, because it feels like all work and no payoff. The best way to forge ahead, even when you're not yet reaping benefits like ripped abs or a smaller pants size? Keep a log of your efforts toward those rewards.
Study after study shows that wearing a tracking device as you work toward an exercise goal can provide the motivation you need to keep going. It's energizing to see your progress—whether it's steps taken, calories burned or floors climbed—in bright lights. In one experiment, participants wearing a pedometer increased their activity level by almost 30 percent! These days, you can get a cool-looking tracking device that keeps a record of all of your day's movements—and keeps that New Year's resolution feeling exciting and fresh, even in the moments when you're thinking about quitting. Fitbit offers colorful devices that look (and feel) like watches, as well as traditional trackers you can stealthily stow in your pocket. Moral of the story? There's a tracker for everyone.
2. Designate an accountability friend.
Feeling a little lonely at the gym when your pals are meeting up at the bar instead? You need some company—preferably company who will keep you on your resolution game.
Enlist a friend to be in on your workout plans (maybe she'll even want to join your session!) and to follow up with you to find out how it went. Being held accountable is proven to boost adherence to workout regimens. It's one thing to let yourself down—but what about having to report to your accountability buddy that you blew off another spin class? Believe us—you'll get to it. And before you know it, your resolution will be a habit.
3. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.
One thing you'll want to accept from the get-go if you want to stick to the goals you set for yourself on January 1st: You're almost certain to mess up. It's the way humans operate—we do what we're supposed to most of the time, and for the remainder of the time we're succumbing to less healthy desires, like channel surfing and running up takeout charges on Seamless.
It's cool. Don't beat yourself up. If you let every little slip destroy your motivation, you'll never get anywhere. Accept that you might not achieve 100 percent in terms of dedication to your resolution, and then the diversions will simply seem like part of the process, rather than setbacks that threaten to make you quit.
4. Celebrate your progress, no matter how big or small.
Working toward a goal is just that—work. Few people wake up in the morning and think, You know what I really feel like doing today? A bunch of work.
In order to stay motivated, you have to feel like you're getting somewhere. Take the milestones you log with your tracking device and throw yourself a party already! Plan a night out, make dinner reservations, buy yourself the dress you've been eyeing—whatever makes you feel recognized for all the hard work you've been doing. Then decide what your next celebration will look like, and work toward the next milestone with that in mind. Every single step you take counts.
5. Keep your eye on the prize.
Your biggest motivator in all of this? The final reward you're ultimately after.
Make it a point to return your focus to what prompted you to make this New Year's resolution in the first place. Maybe you wanted to look better, or you've been feeling sluggish and are hoping to turn your energy level around. Maybe a friend or family member got some scary health news that made you want to change your ways.
There's some pain that made you want to pursue this goal, and you have to keep that in mind as you slog through the steps toward the prize. How will it feel when you get there? Envision the joy and relief you'll experience when you see you've finally made it.