Lose weight. Save more cash. Start hitting the gym. Every year, half the population make New Year’s resolutions like these. Only 8 percent keep them. Even if you nail all of your goals the first week, the successes usually dwindle as January wears on. Clearly, we’re doing it wrong.
The biggest problem is the tendency to shoot for the moon, making lofty, all-or-nothing resolutions without a concrete plan for achieving them. “Typically, they are anemic intentions — weak, vague, general goals that have no power to move us to action,” says Dr. Tim Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Canada and author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle.
The secret to actual, lasting improvement is making small, daily tweaks that build lifelong healthy habits. “Then, when you do those actions, you’ll be making progress on your overall goals,” says Pychyl. “There’s nothing like progress to fuel motivation, self-efficacy, and well-being.”