Perhaps the only thing more popular than making New Year's resolutions is not keeping them. But research suggests several ways to increase your success rate.
1. Do it for "intrinsic" reasons. A wide range of studies show that people are more likely to follow through and complete a goal when it is intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is when a behavior or attitude is percieved as freely chosen and inherantly valued. This is roughly represented by the saying "do it for yourself." It stands in contrast to making a goal because you feel pressure from an external source. This is extrinsic motivation, an example of which would be a person wanting to lose weight because their husband or wife is pestering them.
2. Make a Reachable Goal. This sort of goes without saying, but many people make unrealistic goals that they cannot complete. Setting a goal that is too difficult leads to frustration and a sense of failure, which often result in people not following through on their goal.
3. Make Mini Goals. Say for instance your goal is to graduate college. You sign up and start classes. Well, your reward is probably years away. This can make it very difficult to follow through, because it is hard to keep a goal without intermediate rewards. It might be a good idea, for instance, to set up several mini goals along the way, and even give yourselves a small reward when you meet those goals.
4.Stay the Course. Many people fail to meet their resolution on one or two occassions, or have a minor slip up, and then simply give up. Life happens and no one can completely live up to any goal. The successful aren't the perfect, but the persistant.
5. Keep your Future Mood in Mind. Research shows that we as humans are incredibly bad at predicting our future moods. When we go to bed and say we will get up at 6 am for instance, we do not account for how we might feel at 6 am. We won't be as motivated as we were when we went to sleep. Similarly, there are times we won't be as motivated to complete our resolutions as we were when we made them. People know this, but they aren't always aware of this. Losing motivation isn't a sign of failure, but is a normal reaction. Preparing for it can help people push on and complete their resolution.
I am in no way a master of goal completion myself. I can barely pry myself away from my new Wii and Playstation games enough to eat. But, it isn't because I took my own advice.