We are starting a new year and we feel motivated to have a fresh start, we want to improve. However, 92% of persons that make New Year’s resolutions fail in keeping them through the year and 60% fail by the end of January. In fact, the third Monday of January it’s called Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year in the Northern hemisphere due to the weather, the realization of the debt after the holidays and the failure in keeping the new year’s resolutions.

So, how to make this time round more successful? Don’t focus on your resolutions, focus on strong positive motivations: passion, hope, compassion, excitement, curiosity. In 2017 the New York Times published an article where a study showed that, for instance, compassion and gratitude are strong motivators to change. It is not the “discipline” that it is going to help you to keep your resolutions, it is the “love, gratitude and passion” for what do you want to achieve what it is going to keep you on course.

Be SMART when you are setting up your goals and resolutions. SMART is an acronym coined in the journal Management Review in 1981 and stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Specific. Your resolution must be absolutely clear. Making a concrete goal is really important rather than just vaguely saying ‘I want to lose weight’ or ‘I want to be healthy’ or “I want a better relationship’. How much weight? what means “healthy”? what area of the relationship do you want to improve?

Measurable. This may seem obvious if your goal is a fitness or weight loss related one, but how are you going to measure “healthy” or “better relationship”? Set goals like “I will eat one salad for lunch” or “I will have a date night every two weeks with my partner”… anything that you can count.

Achievable. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have big stretch goals. But trying to take too big a step too fast can leave you frustrated. Like an example, if you are not used going to the gym and you want to go 5 times a week, most likely you won’t be able to keep that resolution, but if you say the first month I will go at least once a week and then in the second month twice a week until you reach the 5 times you want to go you will have more chances to succeed.

Relevant. This goal has to really matter to you, and you have to make it for the right reasons.

Time-bound. Like “achievable,” the timeline toward reaching your goal should be realistic, too. That means giving yourself enough time to do it with lots of smaller intermediate goals set up along the way.

Something that I think is very important in this process is to be patient and kind to yourself. Don’t be guilty of the “all or nothing” thinking. Most like it you are going to fail, that’s OK don’t give up. Any effort towards your goal is better than no effort. Don’t turn temporary failures into total meltdowns or excuses for giving up. Instead, just acknowledge the mistake and recommit to the path towards the goal.

Finally, I need to add that sometimes we can have unconscious needs or thoughts that are going to prevent us to achieve some resolutions. Sometimes we need some help unblocking ourselves to achieve our best. Then it is time to seek psychotherapy as a way to grow and fulfill our wishes and desires.

Pablo Munoz