How to get back on track with your New Year’s resolutions

As we reach the six-week mark of 2024, many of us are already sensing a lag in the pursuit of our New Year’s resolutions. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, involving over 5,000 U.S. adults last month, revealed that 41% of resolution-makers had abandoned some or all of their goals.

Offering encouragement, Deborah Carr, a sociology professor at Boston University, emphasized that a setback in January doesn’t equate to overall failure. NBC News sought advice from seven experts, including registered dietitians and professors specializing in psychology, sociology, or behavioral science, on how to regain momentum. Their recommendations include refining goals to be specific and achievable, making resolutions enjoyable by incorporating existing interests, finding an accountability partner, or even reconsidering the concept of New Year’s resolutions entirely.

Here are some science-backed strategies to consider for the remainder of the year:

  1. Make resolutions specific and track progress: Setting narrow, measurable goals is crucial for success. Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral science, suggests avoiding broad resolutions like “I want to exercise more.” Instead, specify goals like working out for 150 minutes a week, allowing for tangible progress tracking. Research indicates that monitoring progress significantly aids in goal adherence.
  2. Incorporate enjoyment into new habits: Wendy Wood, a psychology professor, highlights the importance of finding joy in the process of achieving long-term goals. Adding elements of enjoyment, such as watching TV while exercising, can enhance adherence. Studies show that immediate rewards, like enjoying a workout, are more influential than long-term goals in sustaining motivation.
  3. Find an accountability buddy: Having someone to hold you accountable increases the likelihood of success. Studies suggest that individuals with supportive companions in weight loss or financial goals achieve better outcomes. A reminder or encouragement from a partner can be a powerful motivator.
  4. Look beyond the new year for motivation: Hengchen Dai, a professor of organizational behavior, suggests not confining goal-setting to the new year. Her research on the “fresh start effect” indicates that people are motivated after significant events like birthdays or the start of a new week. Consider these markers as opportunities for goal-setting, not just January 1st.
  5. Consider life changes for forming new habits: Wendy Wood advises that forming new habits is most effective when accompanied by significant life changes, such as moving homes or starting a new job. New environments provide a blank slate, making it easier to establish and maintain resolutions without the interference of old habits.

In essence, it’s never too late to refocus and recalibrate your resolutions for the year ahead.