The start of a New Year is the perfect time to turn a new page, which is probably why so many people create New Year’s Resolutions. A new year often feels like a fresh start, a great opportunity to eliminate bad habits and establish new routines that will help you grow psychologically, emotionally, socially, physically or intellectually. Of course, resolutions are much easier to make than to keep and, by the end of January, many of us have abandoned our resolve and settled back into our old patterns. Following are 10 Great Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions:
1. Choose a Specific, Realistic Goal
Every year, millions of adults resolve to “lose weight” or “get in shape” during the next year. Instead of selecting such an ambiguous goal, focus on something more concrete that you can realistically set your sights on. For example, you might commit to losing 10 pounds or running a mini-marathon. Choosing a concrete, achievable goal also gives you the opportunity to plan exactly how you are going to accomplish your goal over the course of the year.
2. Pick Just One Resolution
While you might have a long list of potential resolutions, Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at Hertfordshire University, suggests that you should pick just one and focus your energies on it rather than spreading yourself too thin among a number of different objectives.
3. Don’t Wait Until New Year’s Eve
Planning is an essential part of achieving any goal. Experts suggest that you should spend some time planning out how you will tackle a major behavior change. You can start by writing down your goal, making a list of things you might do to achieve that goal, and noting any obstacles that might stand in your way.
4. Start With Small Steps
Taking on too much is a common reason why so many New Year’s Resolutions fail. Dramatically slashing calories, over-doing it at the gym, or radically altering your normal behavior are sure-fire ways to derail your plans. Instead, focus on taking tiny steps that will ultimately help you reach your larger goal. If you’ve resolved to run a marathon, start out by going for a jog two or three times a week. If you are trying to eat healthier, start by replacing some of your favorite junk foods with more nutritious foods. While it may seem like a slow start, these small changes make it easier to stick to your new habits and increase the likelihood of long-term success.
5. Avoid Repeating Past Failures
Another strategy for keeping your New Year’s Resolution is to not make the exact same resolution year after year. “If people think they can do it they probably can, but if they’ve already tried and failed, their self-belief will be low,” explained Wiseman in a 2006 interview with The Guardian. If you do choose to reach for the same goals you’ve tried for in the past, spend some time evaluating your previous results. Which strategies were the most effective? Which were the least effective?
What has prevented you from keeping your resolution in past years? By changing your approach, you will be more likely to see real results this year.
6. Remember That Change Is a Process
Those unhealthy habits that you are trying to change probably took years to develop, so how can you expect to change them in just a matter of days, weeks, or months? It may take longer than you would like to achieve your goals, but remember that this is not a race to the finish. Once you have made the commitment to changing a behavior, it is something that you will continue to work on for the rest of your life.
7. Don’t Let Small Stumbles Bring You Down
Encountering a setback is one of the most common reasons why people give up on their New Year’s Resolution. If you suddenly relapse into a bad habit, don’t view it as a failure. The path toward your goal is not a straight one and there are always going to be challenges. Instead, view relapses as learning opportunities. If you are keeping a resolution journal, write down important information about when the relapse occurred and what might have triggered it. By understanding the challenges you face, you will be better prepared to deal with them in the future.
8. Get Support from Your Friends and Family
Yes, you’ve probably heard this advice a million times, but that is because the buddy system actually works. Having a solid support system can help you stay motivated. Explain what your goals are to your close friends or family and ask them to help you achieve your objectives. Better yet, enlist the help of others by joining a group that shares your goal.
9. Renew Your Motivation
During the first days of a New Year’s Resolution, you will probably feel confident and highly motivated to reach your goal. Because you haven’t really faced any discomfort or temptation associated with changing your behavior, making this change might seem all too easy. After dealing with the reality of dragging yourself to the gym at 6 A.M. or gritting your teeth through headaches brought on by nicotine withdrawal, your motivation to keep your New Year’s Resolution will probably start to dwindle. When you face such moments, remind yourself of exactly why you are doing this. What do you have to gain by achieving your goal? Find sources of information that will keep you going when times get tough.
10. Keep Working on Your Goals
By February, many people have lost that initial spark of motivation that they felt immediately after making their New Year’s Resolution. Keep that inspiration alive by continuing to work on your goals, even after facing setbacks. If your current approach is not working, reevaluate your strategies and develop a new plan. Consider keeping a resolution journal, where you can write about your successes and struggles. Write down the reasons why you are working toward your goal so that you can refer to them during times when you feel uninspired and unmotivated. By sticking with it and working on your goal all year long, you can be one of the few able to say that you really did keep your New Year’s Resolution.
About the Author: Kendra Cherry is a writer and educator for Pyschology.About.com. She is the author of the Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition) and she has written about diverse topics in psychology, including personality, social behavior, child therapy, research methods and much more.