Hanging on to clothes that don’t fit as an incentive to keep a New Year’s resolution to get in shape? Studies show that this strategy tends to backfire by reminding people that they aren’t the same slim size they were in the past, producing a sense of inadequacy that can result in behavior that doesn’t support the goal. Instead of holding out for the day those clothes might fit again, donate them to ClothingDonations.org and take a long walk or sign up for a fitness class. When you reach a more ideal size, you can buy new clothes!
The key to an achievable New Year’s resolution is to make it “SMART,” the New York Times says. An acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound, management gurus have long used SMART techniques to help businesses make and track concrete, realistic goals. For instance, a SMART personal goal would be “I’m going to lose 10 pounds in three months,” instead of “I’m going to lose some weight.” Giving a goal specific targets and timeframes, in other words, helps delineate the often difficult task ahead.
Start small if you want to keep a New Year’s resolution. The top reason people abandon their goals for self-improvement is that they set their expectations too high—targeting a pie-in-the-sky figure of 20 pounds lost, for example, or $1, 000 saved. Instead, “Start with very, very small steps, ” Dr. Lina Shihabuddin, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at RWJBarnabas Health in West Orange, N.J., told USA Today. Otherwise, you can get frustrated and give up on your goals altogether.