One Week Later: How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

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New Year’s Day was just a week ago, but statistically the majority of us have already given up on our resolutions. It is the same pattern that plays out every year. We enter the New Year with optimism and a goal, but in the end 88% of all resolutions result in failure. They don’t have to though.

The biggest problem facing the majority of New Year’s resolutions is the lack of a plan. Far too often we dream up big goals and attack them on January 1st with all the enthusiasm of a kid in a toy store, but we never plan for the set backs and trials that come with making a real life-changing resolution. When you aren’t prepared for these setbacks, they can derail everything you had hoped to accomplish.

By taking the time to think through your resolution and plan for how to accomplish it, you can make sure your future resolutions stick. And don’t worry, even if you’ve given up on your resolution already, you can get back on track with just a little of the determination you felt before the ball dropped.

1) Make changes to your behavior – The most common New Year’s resolutions have been surprisingly stable over the years. Time and time again, the majority vow to lose weight, quit smoking, and eat healthier.

None of those can be accomplished without a significant change in your lifestyle. Before you go join a gym or throw out your pack of cigarettes, take the time to plan for how you will avoid the behaviors that have made you fail in the past. Choose a gym close to your home or on the path to work so that it is convenient for you. It also serves as a daily reminder.

Similarly, smokers will need to plan for the cravings, as well as the extra time. When looking to quit, you may need to stop spending as much time with friends that chain smoke, or temporarily avoid attending events that might tempt you.

2) Define your goals realistically – Vowing to lose weight is a positive decision, but it isn’t a reliable goal. It is too vague, and often your mental goal isn’t immediately achievable. Your goal of looking like a model may serve as a good initial motivator, but it isn’t going to hold up when you get frustrated by slow results. Instead, set a series of realistic goals that you can work towards.

Start by trying to fit into an old pair of pants. Then, work to slim down a size at a time. Most importantly, set goals that are easily tracked. Being able to see your progress will help you keep your eyes on the bigger goals down the line.

3) Reward small achievements – Every resolution is difficult, but they don’t have to feel like an endless trudge. When you reach small checkpoints or goals, acknowledge the hard work you’ve done and reward yourself.

If you’re looking to lose weight, you can reward yourself with a relatively healthy snack when you lose your first ten pounds. While it can be easy to use these rewards as an excuse to fall off the bandwagon, they can also serve as a good motivator to keep you excited for your goal.

4) Make it public – The easiest way to cripple your resolution before you’ve started is to keep it secret. There is a reason your social media feeds were filled with resolution announcements on the 1st.

When you tell others your goal, you are making yourself accountable to more than just yourself. No one wants to disappoint their loved ones, and that motivation can keep you strong when you feel weak. It may feel bad to let yourself down, but letting those who care about you down can feel much worse. Use it to your advantage.

5) Accept your limits – Just because you’ve slipped up doesn’t mean your resolution is a failure. Few are able to achieve their goal with no setbacks. In fact, USA Today says 70% of successful goal setters said their first slip actually strengthened their resolve. So don’t let that one cigarette ruin all the work you’ve done. By accepting the mistake and looking at what you can do to avoid it in the future, you’ll make make reaching your goal even easier.

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