Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


18 Tips to Build Rock-Solid Commitments

Proven tools and techniques you can apply right away.

Source: CC/Unsplash

Keeping your commitments can be tough, especially with daily distractions coming in the way. Luckily, there are tools and techniques you can use to strengthen your resolution and build rock-solid habits. Down below is a list of some of my favorite techniques to set better goals and make a change for good. So without further ado, here are 18 tips to keep your commitments.

Tip #1: Set a Reward

Every new action is more fun when there’s a reward waiting for you. You can reward yourself when you have achieved a milestone, like buying concert tickets after you have finished your latest work project. This is especially helpful if your partner is given some control over the consequence (e.g., give those tickets to your partner to give back only if the resolution has been met). Regardless of which rewards you choose, make sure it is something you genuinely enjoy.

Tip #2: Set a Small Punishment

Instead of rewarding yourself, you can also choose the opposite route. Pick and choose a punishment in case you fail your goal. For instance, you can pledge to donate a certain amount of money in case you revert back to bad, old habits. You can even make it harder, by donating to a cause that goes against your beliefs and values. Again, regardless of which punishment you choose, make sure it is something you genuinely dislike. Make it public—share it with a trusted partner, so you can not escape your punishment.

Tip #3: Find a Professional

This is another candidate for the most effective tip on this list. Whichever goal you wish to achieve, get a trained professional. Do you want to get a flat stomach? Get a fitness trainer! Do you want to improve your mental state? Get a psychologist! Do you want to improve your writing? Get a writing coach! Yes, it can be expensive, but it can also help you achieve your goal faster and better than you would ever be able to do on your own.

Tip #4: Get Equipment

You can get more invested in your new-born habit by literally investing in it. Get yourself the proper equipment to move ahead on your goal. If you want to start meditating, get yourself a meditation cushion. If you want to start journaling, get yourself a fancy pen and journal. By investing in your goal, you will strengthen your commitment. You can also use small upgrades as rewards.

Tip #5: Attend Classes

Whatever goal you have in mind, there are likely going to be courses about it. Search your area and find a class for you to attend. This will not only bring you into contact with experienced teachers, but it will also allow you to meet other people with shared goals and aspirations. Surrounding yourself with people on a similar path as your own is one of the most effective steps you can take toward achieving your goal.

Tip #6: Join Online Groups

If you can’t attend a real-life class, try this next tip: Join an online group devoted to your goal. Whether we are talking about dieting, exercising, reading, writing, meditating, financing, nail-biting, or any other topic, there will be a forum devoted entirely to your goal. Joining such a group will allow you to—yet again—meet people with similar goals, and give you a place for questions, feedback, insights and support.

Tip #7: Read an Evidence-Based Book

Here is an amazing fact about the world: Right now there are thousands of people all over the planet who are experts in whatever you wish to accomplish. And even better, plenty of them have taken the time to distill their wisdom into written words for you to purchase. Research your choices and make sure they are based on good data. Now it’s up to you to go out and read that book! Well-chosen books will not only make you more knowledgeable, but they also help you strengthen your overall commitments.

Tip #8: Write a Commitment Contract

Everything is more official when it is put into writing. For this reason, write a contract about your commitment. You can specify your commitment and how you will start taking new action. You can even include a section of why this goal is important to you. After you have written everything down, make sure to sign it with your full name (after all, this is a contract). You can now display it so it can act as a frequent reminder of your resolution.

Tip #9: Write a Commitment Diary

When you start taking new action, you will have good and bad days. And during these ups and downs, it can help to write a commitment diary. This means every day you write a little about your resolution: What was today like? What went well? What was hard? And what have you learned? Taking the time to answer these questions can not only strengthen your commitment, but also provide you with valuable lessons and insights.

Tip #10: Write Sentence Stems

Sentence stems are one of the most effective tools to boost your motivation and find creative solutions to complex problems. For this reason, take your time to write five sentence stems each day. All you have to do is find an ending to the following sentence: “If I’m truly serious about X, I will …” (Replace “X” with your goal in mind). Try to come up with an answer as fast as possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong, or if you repeat yourself. Do it daily, and you will soon realize that you are full of ideas on how to achieve your goal.

Tip #11: Practice Patience

This might just be the tip you don’t want, but definitely need. When attempting to make a change it’s important to practice patience. Your goal might be very hard to reach. It might be a long way off in the future. And you may need to start more than once, with a lot of failure and setbacks in between. That’s alright. Don’t get discouraged. Instead, practice patience and know that hardship and pain are sometimes part of the journey.

Tip #12: Defuse From Self-Talk

Your mind can be your own worst enemy. It constantly spits out difficult thoughts, like how you are a failure, why you will never accomplish your goal, and that you just don’t have what it takes. And when your mind threatens to take over, defuse from this unhelpful self-talk. There are many different techniques you can use, and explaining them all would go beyond the scope of this article. Instead, click here and learn how to effectively defuse from negative self-talk.

Tip #13: Observe, Accept, and Describe Discomfort

Quite often, we quit our good intentions in an attempt to stop feeling uncomfortable. Don’t let this be you. Instead, you can learn to observe your discomfort consciously and mindfully, open up to it and label where and what you feel. What does the pain feel like? How does it change? And can you allow yourself to feel a bit more uncomfortable? The more you open up to discomfort, the more you become free to do what matters to you. For more insights into dealing with discomfort, click here.

Tip #14: If You Are Going to Slip, Slip Consciously

When we slip back into bad habits, we often don’t do it from a place of conscious savoring, but from a place of mindlessness. We almost forget what we are doing while we are doing it. If you are going to slip, make it a point to slip consciously. Yes, bite your nails, but only if you do it slowly, openly, consciously, and mindfully. Nothing but a full focus on your bad habit. You may be surprised to find it is hardly the big treat your mind claims it is. Feel free to stop anytime.

Tip #15: Experiment

All of the tips on this list work for some people, and probably none work for all people. It is up to you to find out which work best for you. Experiment with different techniques and strategies. Keep what works and throw out what doesn’t. This is a continuous process, and only by continuous experimenting will you find an approach that truly works for you.

Tip #16: Plan For Failure

The unfortunate reality is, you will experience setbacks. A plan will not go according to plan. And an intention will break apart. That is life. Instead of agonizing over your next failure, plan ahead! What will you do when you mess up? How can you quickly catch yourself and recommit to your goal? The better you plan for failure, the better you are able to bounce back and learn from your next misstep.

Tip #17: Take a Break

Sometimes making a change is not a good idea. Sometimes your circumstances are against you, and you find yourself fighting against windmills. In these cases, it’s best to take a break. You don’t have to constantly push yourself. Let it rest. And then, after you have had some time to recover, with renewed energy, make a new attempt and go for it.

Tip #18: Get Started

One of the simplest, but most effective tips is this: Just get started. It doesn’t matter how. Just do something. Don’t wait for the perfect time to go to the gym, but get down and do five push-ups now. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to start meditating, but close your eyes and meditate for 60 seconds now. You will never magically feel like taking action unless you start taking action. So get started, right here, right now.

If you're looking for more tools and proven strategies, keep an eye out for the next post on 18 Tips to Make Resolutions That Stick, or find my new book here.

More from Steven C. Hayes Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today