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8 Tips for Using Emotion to Make Your Resolutions Stick!

Pain, Pleasure, Charity and Social Media Can All Help You Keep Your Commitments

While resolutions are made throughout the year, the end of the year is peak season for resolution making. We all know that sticking to a resolution is a lot harder than making one. Here are some tips for helping make your own stick.

1) Write it down!



It can be pen and paper. It can be typed into a file you save on your computer. You can even email it to yourself. Spelling it out will make it feel more like a real commitment. Particularly effective is putting it into your daily calendar! Imagine the impact of looking at your resolution each morning when you check your to do list! Keeping a journal of your progress can also help.

2) Whether you are trying to break a bad habit or start a new good one, make it very concrete and specific!

That way, you know when you are or are not straying from your resolution.

“I will eat better” is not specific enough. “I will give up all sugar and white flour this year and at least three servings of vegetables each day” is. "I will bike more" is again too vague. However, "I will bike to and from work each day that I go to work, unless there is a Tsunami that makes doing so impossible" is very specific! Making it concrete and clear means you can’t kid yourself. You will clearly know when you are cheating.

3) Tell others!

cute kids whisper

cute kids whisper

When you see those close to you, tell them about your resolution. You can take it a step further and use social media to announce your commitment (with its clear specific details) to a wider range of friends, followers, circles, readers, etc. Even telling strangers increases the embarrassment of failure, and avoiding embarrassment can be highly motivating.

Of course, those who live or work with you may be the most effective “others” to tell. Anyone who can witness your sticking to or breaking your resolution can act as a reminder and motivator to stick with it. It may be particularly effective if you share your resolution with someone else who has the same resolution as you can help motivate each other!

4) Add some positive motivation linking greater happiness and pleasure to your success.

Write out a list of at least 3 reasons you want to meet this commitment that deal with the positive emotions and outcomes it will create. Share these reasons with at least one person you are close to. How will sticking to this resolution make you feel? How will it affect your self esteem? How will it improve your life? Who else will benefit? How will others benefit? Write it all out!

5) Associate pain with not following through!

Write out at least 3 reasons you do not want to fail to stick to this resolution. Again, share this with someone you are close to. How will failing to stick to your resolution make you feel? How will it affect your self esteem? What will it cost you? How will it hurt you? Who will it hurt other than you? How will it hurt those people?

6) Add additional pleasure to succeeding!

Come up with a reward for when you succeed in meeting your resolution. A trip, a massage, a shopping spree, anything you can afford to do that you can look forward to. Add some money to this. If you succeed, donate $50 (or more) to your favorite charity. This will be particularly motivating if you also stick to the suggestions in tip #7!

reproductive rights

7) Add even more pain to failing!

reproductive rights

7) Add even more pain to failing!

Come up with a punishment for failing to meet your resolution. Add some money to this one too. If you fail, donate $100 to your LEAST favorite charity. If you can’t think of a charity you dislike, go to Do you have a strong opinion one way or another on reproductive rights or gun control? Regardless of which side of these debates you sit on, there are charities aligned with your views, as well as ones that are opposed to them. Pick one that you disagree with, and if you fail to stick to your resolution, commit to writing them a check for the same amount as what you committed in tip #6.

gun control

If your resolution is super challenging, you can make it so that you only have to write the check if you slip up and don’t immediately clean up your act at the next opportunity. On a personal note, I must say that my commitment to donate $100 to the NRA if I failed at my own commitment to work out at least six days a week has been extremely effective. I have met my fitness goals, and the NRA has zero money from me.

Another way to make it painful to fail is to have to admit to everyone you committed to that you failed to meet your resolution, making this a great follow up to tip #3!

All these tips should help raise the chances that you will meet your resolutions this year. Just in case you have a slip, the above steps can help you get back on track. Keep a journal of your progress throughout the year. Remember that progress and general improvement counts too!

Which brings me to the final tip:

8) If you falter, forgive yourself! Then get back on track!

Successful people are not the ones that never fail, they are the ones that never give up!

We all know that one cookie is far less harmful than a box full of cookies. Simillary, taking three days off from your workout schedule is not nearly as big a deal as taking a month off. So never use a small slip (or even a big one) as an excuse to totally give up on your resolution.