Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

How to make healthful and helpful behavioral changes in the New Year.

Posted Jan 15, 2018

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Did you know that January 17th is Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day? Do you know that, according to some studies, almost 80 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them at some point during the year and only about 12 percent succeed with their resolutions? Many people even carry over their resolutions from year to year, hoping the next year will be better for meeting success.

Why do we make New Year’s resolutions? We make them because we’re trying to make behavioral changes. And if we change our behaviors for long enough, we’ve created new habits. And habits, unless we purposefully break them, are generally here to stay.

Perhaps this year I can help you take a different approach to your resolutions to make it easier to succeed. Below are my 10 tips for following through on your New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Limit the number of resolutions.  Instead of making a list of 20 goals, pick the top 3 and decide to work on those. You will have a much better chance of success if you don’t overwhelm yourself with lists of changes to make.
  2. Make your goals attainable, measurable and realistic. What does that mean? Many of us have weight loss as a resolution. Instead of saying you want to lose 50 pounds this year, break down that goal into a smaller one that’s easier to keep track of and accomplish. For instance, make your resolution to lose one pound a week. That’s still 52 pounds in a year, but broken down into more attainable goals. Remember the saying “slow and steady wins the race”? You can always lose more than 1 pound a week if you choose, but you will have a better chance of meeting your goal if you break it down into smaller, weekly increments.
  3. Make a plan to reach that 1st, small, attainable goal. Make the plan realistic. For instance, instead of planning to go to the gym 5 days a week from the start, begin by trying to go to the gym twice a week. Once you’ve done that with success you may want to add a day or 2 a week. The key is to set yourself up to succeed rather than making a plan that’s likely to fail. That will change your whole outlook about yourself and your resolutions.
  4. Keep your eye on the prize. Visualize yourself having met with success. Close your eyes and imagine yourself thinner, fitter, not smoking, writing more, etc.  Whatever it is you wish to do, imagine what it will feel like, look like, how it will change your life, what others will think when you’ve reached your goal. Do this visualization every day. This will help you stay focused and keep a positive momentum.
  5. Believe in yourself. You can do it! You deserve to do this, you deserve to be where you want to be. Write down a list of positive affirmations and read them every day. If you miss a day of sticking to your goal, don’t berate yourself, just know that tomorrow is another day to meet with success.
  6. Do one thing each day that will help you reach your goal. Just one thing.  Doing something every day will help it become a habit. A habit means you don’t even need to think about it anymore, you just do it, kind of like brushing your teeth. After that one thing becomes a habit and incorporated into your life, add another if you feel you can. Adding one thing at a time will make it easier to succeed than trying to do five things each day from the start.  Ensure success by making that first thing easy to do. So instead of planning to walk two miles every day, start by walking for 15 minutes each day. Then when you’ve easily accomplished that, add another 15 minutes to your walk. You can continue to increase the time and/or distance until it becomes routine to walk two miles daily.
  7. Track your progress. Write down what you intend to do each day and check it off at the end of the day. If you have not been able to do the desired plan, it means it’s not the right plan. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Change the plan until you find one you’re able to accomplish. Log your accomplishments in a journal, on a calendar, or find an app that can help you track your behaviors and keep track of your progress. 
  8. Consider enlisting the support of others. Perhaps there’s someone you know who has a similar goal to yours. You might consider supporting each other in your quests, or working on your goal together. Make each other your “resolution buddy”.
  9. Make your goal specific. If your goal is to stop smoking, start out by intending to cut out one cigarette each day or every other day or every week until you are no longer a smoker. 
  10. Focus on the small achievements. They will get you to the longer range goal. Plan a reward for sticking to the plan for 2 days in a row, then a week in a row, etc.

Happy New Year! Enjoy your new habits!

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