It’s no big news that nearly half of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions ditch them before the end of January, according to a smart-sounding research institute called Statistic Brain. Some 44 percent of people hang in there ’til July, but by the end of the year, only 9 percent have endured and made good on their resolutions. That means a sad 91 percent of us aren’t able to make the lasting changes that will improve the quality—and perhaps even the length—of our lives.
To turn that stat around, I propose an idea I got from an unlikely source: the 1991 comedy What About Bob? (one of my favorites!). In the movie, psychotherapist Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) suggests that his neurotic patient Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) take “baby steps” to overcome his problems. For example, it was overwhelming for Bob to think of all the things that might happen to him once he left Dr. Marvin’s office, so Dr. Marvin encourages him to focus only on baby-stepping across the office. Once he reaches the door, he can concentrate on baby-stepping down the hallway and so on.
As I rewatched the movie for the zillionth time on New Year’s Eve, it occurred to me that baby-stepping could be an effective approach to making resolutions. Instead of making grand 365-day commitments, how about making 30-day ones? Or even 7-day? As the stats show, it’s a lot easier to stick to a plan for a week than for a whole year. Plus, short-term resolutions can be tweaked to accommodate for seasonal schedule changes and other things that come up throughout the year.
So my challenge is this: Take out your calendar now and schedule five minutes at the start of each month or week to plan your mini resolution. Then baby-step your way to success throughout 2017—I’ll be doing the same.
Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).