The data on your New Year’s resolution

By MARGUERITE WARD

Setting small goals with specific steps dramatically increases a person’s success rate. Photo courtesy Tracy App

Setting small goals with specific steps dramatically increases a person’s success rate. Photo courtesy Tracy App

Only 8 percent of people successfully fulfill their New Year’s resolutions, according to a recent study published by the University of Scranton. While the most common goals seem manageable—to lose weight, get organized and spend less—the majority of Americans are failing. Most people give up on their resolutions after four weeks.

For a successful resolution, the devil is in the details. Turns out, you may have not been specific enough to begin with in defining your goal. The lead psychologist behind the study, John Norcross, argues New Year’s resolutions should be small instead of grandiose.

Take the common goal of losing weight or eating better as an example. Norcross challenges people to be more concrete.

“Specifically, what are you going to do so that you can measure and track [your weight] over time, for say, the next three to four months?” he said in a published interview.

New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be as intense as training for a marathon or deactivating your Netflix account. In fact, they can be small, but conscious steps in the right direction. One New Year’s resolution program embraces that saying with full force.

Twenty minutes each day devoted to it could make or break your New Year’s resolution. Photo courtesy Ed Yourdon

Twenty minutes each day devoted to it could make or break your New Year’s resolution. Photo courtesy Ed Yourdon

In its first-ever 100-Day Step Challenge, the Rye YMCA recently launched a pedometer challenge to encourage people to walk and move more. At the end of the 100 days, the YMCA will collect data from the pedometers of participants and count the total steps taken. If 100 people walk the goal of 10,000 steps each day for the duration of the program, the Rye YMCA community could achieve an incredible 10 million steps.

For the staff, the program is less about achieving a number and instead motivating people to improve their lifestyle habits. As part of the program, each participant receives a daily motivational email.

“Camaraderie is in our human nature. We tend to be a little more successful, not only when we set goals that are incremental, but when we also do it with other people,” Laura Tiedge, senior director of healthy living at the Rye YMCA, said.

As for why the pedometer program, Tiedge said, “The movement challenge came from some reading about the importance of movement throughout the day. It’s a great way for us to help people with their lifestyle goals as they work on New Year’s resolutions.”

Valerie Romanello, of Greenwich, Conn., and member of the Rye YMCA, is participating in the 100-Day Step Challenge. She encourages people to purchase a pedometer and start moving.

“Such a simple thing as tracking the steps you take each day is turning out be a great way for me and my family to live healthy and have fun doing it.”

Her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren have since started tracking their steps.

“We all carry around these toolboxes with skills and tools we get throughout life. Developing a healthy lifestyle is one of these tools,” Romanello said.

Honing in on the details, no matter what your resolution, could be the key to forming a new, positive habit. If your goal is to save money, try keeping a daily log of your purchases or paying for items in cash. Both have been proven to decrease unnecessary spending.

If you want to increase your mental health, carve out 20 minutes each day to walk, read or listen to music. If you want to launch a new career, plan one night each week devoted to researching new opportunities or networking with people. The possibilities are endless, but the means are specific.

In her viral Ted Talk, Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains why many resolutions are doomed from the start.

“People come up with resolutions that don’t reflect what matters most to them, and that makes them almost guaranteed to fail,” she said.

There are some great ways to kick-start your 2014 goals. westchester.gov keeps an impressive list of activities, including volunteer opportunities, hikes, art exhibits and children’s workshops that could start a new routine. Libraries in the area are hosting a range of self-help events, including a workshop on understanding college FASFA forms at the Mamaroneck Library, weekly meetings on improving English speaking skills at the Rye Library and White Plains Library or business or Microsoft Word classes at the White Plains Library. There are even courses on how to understand enrolling for healthcare at the White Plains Library. In and around Westchester County, great opportunities are available to help you with your specific goals.

Resolve to be one of the 8 percent who succeed in accomplishing New Year’s resolutions. By figuring out what you want, making specific steps and seeking out a community, this year could be a great one.