Whether your new year’s resolution is for health, wealth, or something else, these Michiganders will guide you to making your goals work.

MICHIGAN—Do more kayaking on the Great Lakes. Cut down on Faygo. Actually learn how to play Euchre. Ready to set your 2022 new year’s resolution, ‘Ganders?

Nearly 189 million American adults, or 3 in 4 adults, set new year’s resolutions for 2021, according to Finder. Resolutions are especially popular in the younger generations, with 89% of Millennials and 92% of Generation Z setting resolutions. The most popular categories of resolutions were, in order: health, self-improvement, money, family, love, and career. 

According to the career website Zippia, Michigan’s most popular new year’s resolution for 2021 involved dating. This put the Mitten State in league with California, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, and Utah, who also had dating as their most popular.

For Michiganders hoping to set resolutions, the city you live in may present a challenge to a new year’s resolution, according to WalletHub. Detroit came out as one of the most challenging cities to set new year’s resolutions related to finances, health, and smoking. Grand Rapids ranked significantly higher, placing 43 out of 182 American cities based on overall scores, and among the top 30 cities to quit bad habits like smoking, though it still ranked middle-of-the-road 89 in health resolutions. On top of that, other obstacles exist to setting and keeping resolutions. US News & World Report records the failure rate for new year’s resolutions to be about 80%. Despite this, though, not all is lost.

If you’re looking for advice to make sure your resolutions stick, we’ve got you covered. Here are some compiled tips from both academic ‘Ganders and family bloggers from the Mitten.

1. Start with honest self-reflection.

Michelle Neff, an educator with the Michigan State University Extension, offers a critical tip that is instantly intuitive, yet often overlooked: Look back on the previous year.

“Reflecting over the events of the past year helps determine what goals we were able to accomplish and what goals still need some time,” Neff wrote in 2020. “[This] will also show us which goals need a higher priority and which goals we make year after year because we think we should, and they end up dropped.”

This self-reflection should be given an ample amount of time, with Neff recommending several days or several weeks. Resolution-makers should ask themselves a few questions. What was their biggest challenge? What would they have changed about the past year? And what was something that could have made it more enjoyable, productive, or healthy? 

Neff then recommends picking one area of your life that could use some change, such as relationships, career, money, health, and stress. Stress is another area that Neff recommends reflecting on.

“Focusing on whether stress comes from your job, family, friends, money, relationships, etc. will help you choose which area to focus on,” Neff suggests.

2. Motivate smarter, not harder; avoid “should.”

Michelle Segar, director of the University of Michigan’s Sport Health and Activity Research and Policy Center, offered some fitness motivation advice in a U.S. News & World Report column in 2015.

“[T]he most popular ‘whys’ for going on a diet or starting an exercise program—‘to lose weight’ and ‘to improve my health’—are the wrong ones for many people,” Segar wrote. “Research shows that our primary reason for initiating a change determines whether we experience high- or low-quality motivation.”

Setting a new year’s resolution because one “should” do something is said by Segar to be a low-quality motivation that fuels resentment. Instead of draining your energy, Segar recommends motivation that replenishes your energy.

“[People who stick to their resolutions] resolve to change their behavior because they truly want to improve areas of their daily life in concrete ways that energize them – not deplete them,” says Segar.

3. Start small and build from there.

Lara Alspaugh, a writer and columnist for Lansing Mom, advises resolution-builders to be realistic and start with manageable goals.

“Need to exercise more? Start with a ten minute walk. You are far more likely to stick to that, over committing to a five-day-a-week 5:00am Zumba class,” Alspaugh recommends.

Kristin Castine, assistant professor at the Michigan State University College of Nursing, concurs with this statement.

“Take small steps, you can’t go 0 to 100 in whatever you’re doing,” Castine wrote in a column for Michigan State University. Castine advises that specifically for those looking for health-related resolutions, unrealistic thinking can put you at risk for injury, which only sabotages these goals.

4. Make a specific plan.

David Dunning, University of Michigan Professor of Psychology, is one of two social psychologists that coined the term “Dunning-Kruger Effect,” the cognitive bias where lower-ability people overestimate their ability and higher-ability people underestimate their ability. Dunning’s recommendation for new year’s resolutions? Having a good plan.

“Remember, a goal without a plan is merely a wish,” Dunning told WalletHub in 2017. “If you commit to going to the gym, commit to a few specifics as well. What days or nights will you go to the gym? What do you want to develop, stamina, heart health or strength?”

Teri Rae Socia, a blogger for Michigan Mama News, emphasizes that this plan needs to be specific, while also recommending small steps.

“Instead of saying ‘I vow to work out more this year’…try setting a few small goals such as: I will walk 2 times this week for 30 minutes,” Socio wrote in 2020. “[O]nce you tackle some small goals, you can add to your routine.”

Michelle Segar, also from the University of Michigan, agrees with having a plan in place and advises thinking through possible obstacles. She recommends using “if-then” planning.

“Research shows this type of strategizing drastically increases people’s long-term success,” Segar said to U.S. News & World Report in 2015. “By simply previewing likely obstacles to their plans and ways to get around them, [people who stick with their resolutions] know ahead of time which choice to make when those obstacles arise.”

5. Set the stage for success.

MSU nursing professor Kristin Castine recommends emphasizing an environment that will help you achieve your resolution goals, and removing things that could sabotage your progress.

“Let’s say that you want to lose weight. You need to start by looking at how you’re shopping. When you go to the grocery store, maybe eliminate those foods that aren’t the best choices,” Castine advises. “Try to pick healthier choices and avoid those ‘red-light foods,’ which are those foods that you can’t really resist or control how much you eat.”

Leanne Mauriello, director of the Lifestyle Medicine program at Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health, also emphasizes the need for healthy surroundings, such as a visible yoga mat and sneakers. However, she also recommends recruiting friends and family as a support system.

“Change is easier, more successful, and more fun with support,” Mauriello said to MLive in 2020.

6. Remember it’s never too late for another fresh start.

Lara Alspaugh wrote in her column for Lansing Mom that the new year is just one of many fresh starts. If the first fresh start didn’t go as you planned, you can always have another one.

“[T]here are fresh starts scattered all through our lives,” Alspaugh writes. “Mornings! Mondays! After lunch! Fresh starts aren’t actually a date on the calendar, they are simply a decision in your mind to do better from this moment forward. And you can decide on a fresh start anytime you want.”

Michigan Mama News blogger Teri Rae Socia echoes the statement, urging resolution-makers to shrug off the emotional weight of defeat.

“If you fail again, it’s okay! Begin again,” Socio encourages. “Push the negative thoughts out of your mind and channel that inner will power. Remind yourself that you are worth it and you will succeed in all that you set out to do.”

Kristin Castine with MSU’s College of Nursing also agrees, reminding resolution-makers that everyone is only human. The educator suggests mistakes may happen, but this does not invalidate efforts towards a new year’s resolution.

“You just need to…start over in that moment rather than just saying, ‘I blew that,’” Castine advocates. “Allow yourself to be human. Nobody does a perfect resolution.”