Why is it that new year's resolutions don't work? Simply put, they are often overly generalised or vague, and don't have the specificity and planning which is needed to help us succeed.
My advice - set goals (and make them good ones!!).
Here are some simple principles to put in to play which have been demonstrated to help people achieve their goals.
1) Goals must be specific!! Want to lose weight? How much do you want to lose? In what time frame do you want to achieve it? How will you measure it?
Goals that are both specific and difficult lead to the highest performance (Locke, 1996). Making a goal specific helps us direct our action clearly and makes us more likely to achieve a difficult goal.
2) We need to be committed to our goals, particularly when they are difficult. Our commitment to goals comes through our belief that the goal is important (Locke, 1996). When setting your goals, reflect on how important you feel it is that you achieve it. Did you set the goal yourself, or are you trying to please someone else?
3) Self efficacy and our feeling of competence to achieve a goal fosters goal achievement. Do you feel that you have the skills or abilities to achieve your goal? If not, what will help you to feel more confident? Do you need a mentor, or perhaps additional resources like materials or information. The more empowered you feel, the more likely you are to achieve your goal!
4) Set implementation intentions. Implementation intentions are the small situational cues we set in line with our goals, which prompt us to take action. For example, your goal is to spend one hour each day studying. Your implementation intentions may include the exact time you plan on studying (6pm each night), where you will do it (the desk in your room, with the TV off), the materials you need to do it (notepad, textbook, highlighters). Setting implementation intentions has been shown to increase goal attainment on difficult tasks (Gollwitzer, 1999).
5) Write it down and share it with others!! You're much more likely to succeed if you put your goal in writing, and enlist the support of others by sharing it with them!!
I hope this has helped with a touch of motivation to start 2015!! What are you goals for the new year?
Gollwitzer, P.M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Simple effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54(7), 493-503
Locke, E. (1996). Motivation through conscious goal setting. Applied and Preventative Psychology, 5(2), 117-124