4 tips to reach your New Year’s resolution goals

By Amanda Oglesby

Most Americans who make new year’s resolutions don’t totally reach their goals.

Weight loss targets aren’t achieved. Organizational plans fall into disarray. Smokers determined to quit quickly pick up the habit again.

About 44% of Americans said they were making at least one new year’s resolution, according to a national Marist Poll conducted in early December. And about two-thirds of those who made a resolution for 2016 said they stuck to at least part of their goals.

The top goal? This year, after a raucous election season and lots of social media squabbles, being a better person knocked weight loss from No. 1 with 16% of respondents selecting it. Weight loss and exercising more, two goals with a lot in common, tied for No. 2 at 10%.

Spending less money and saving more, improving health, and eating healthier each received 7% of responses.

If you haven’t made your resolutions yet, you can make some that will stick.

1. Set reasonable goals.

“Start with very very small steps,” said Dr. Lina Shihabuddin, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at RWJBarnabas Health in West Orange, N.J.

“What people tend to do, they give themselves tremendous tasks,” she said. For example, “I want to lose 20 pounds by March. Here comes March and you’ve gained 5 pounds, and you get discouraged and you give it up.”

Setting small goals can make success easier to achieve and limit the chances of giving up because of missing a goal.

And don’t be afraid to seek resources for help, Shihabuddin said. Smokers are more likely to quit if they are willing to see their doctor and take advantage of medication or support groups.

2. Save more; spend less.

Being more fiscally frugal was among the 2016 and 2017 new year’s resolutions. Stagnant wages and increasing costs of items like health care may be prompting more Americans to budget.

“I think the biggest mistake that people make is not tracking what they’re spending (and) what they’re doing,” said Ryan Zacharczyk, president of Zynergy Retirement Planning in Red Bank, N.J. “It’s really the difference between success and failure.”

With new technologies, apps like Mint that sync bank and credit card accounts, saving and monitoring money are easier than ever before, he said.

Another tool to save effectively is to use automatic payroll deduction, Zacharczyk said. Using payroll deduction to fill a 401(k) retirement account, a certificate of deposit account, or savings account is another important element of spending less.

“You don’t have to think about it,” he said. “It’s done automatically and you just spend what’s left.”

Like other types of new year’s resolutions, setting financial goals is also important, Zacharczyk said. To make those goals happen, think backward.

To save up enough for a deposit on a house five years in the future, calculate the yearly savings, then the monthly savings, then the per-paycheck savings needed to be set aside, he said.

3. Build up, don’t burn out.

That new year’s resolution zeal for weight loss can be at first exhilarating, then exhausting, and then can result in a dull fade over time. To prevent this, Dr. Angelo Chinnici of Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J., advises starting small and increasing the workout a little each day.

“I usually tell people to take it slow and gradually increase their exercise program and their diets, so it’s not something that’s basically feast or famine at the first of the year,” he said.

The good news: In Chinnici’s experience, people seem to be more health conscious than in years past. More people are reading food labels and working to prevent diseases or better manage the ones they have through healthy living, he said.

“The message is it’s OK to be motivated at the beginning of the year, but you’ve got to have continuity,” Chinnici said. “You’ve got to continue it throughout the course of the year.”

4. Be willing to embrace a new lifestyle.

People who achieve their new year’s goals do not commit to change in isolation but rather embrace a lifestyle change, Shihabuddin said.

“It really has to be a holistic approach to all your life,” she said. “The result will be more content(ment). I’ll be less stressed out. I’m not so focused on these small things.”

But a lifestyle change is the key to success whether the goal is about health, wealth or relationships, experts say.

Mindfulness, being aware the consequences of actions, is a key piece of sticking to any goal, Shihabuddin said.

“Be mindful of everything that has meaning in your life,” she said. “When I give my kids a hug in the morning, I’m going to give them a 10-second hug instead of a one-second hug. … I am going to be mindful of my day-to-day actions.”

Source: USA Today | not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide