The 5 Simple Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick

Keeping your resolutions is easier than you think when you know the trick.

This time of year many of us evaluate our lives and make solemn promises to transform in one way or another.

I’ll lose weight… I’ll exercise more… I’ll drink less… I’ll eat better… I’ll stop smoking… I’ll work less and spend more time with the family…

Who among us hasn’t crossed our fingers and hoped that this would be the year that the resolution becomes reality? However, most of the time by the end of January, maybe February or March if we’re really dedicated, these pronouncements have been long discarded and we’re back to our old habits. It can be downright demoralizing and lead some to think, “Why bother? It’s impossible to change.”

It can be downright demoralizing and lead some to think, “Why bother? It’s impossible to change.”

I’m here to tell you that it’s not impossible and that with a few tips, you can increase the likelihood of saying goodbye to that muffin top, building the endurance to run a half-marathon, living on a budget, or finding the time to coach your kid’s little league team. Willpower is important, but it’s inadequate on its own. The catalyst for true change is set in motion with these five simple steps: 

1.      Write down your goal and be specific. Writing down your intention makes it a commitment. But instead of writing it down in a future tense, write it in the present tense as if you’ve already achieved your goal. For example, rather than, “I will lose weight”, write instead, “I am ten pounds lighter than I was on January 1.” It’s a little trick of neurolinguistic programming that helps you to start acting “as if” and you’ll find it easier to make the choices that someone “10 pounds lighter” makes.

Post your resolution in places that remind you of your intention such as your refrigerator or bathroom mirror (or both!) and recite the resolution out loud to yourself 25 times a day to remind yourself of what you’re doing. This starts to plant the seed of change in your subconscious.

 Willpower is important, but it’s inadequate on its own.

2.      Tell at least one other person about your resolution. Sharing your intentions with others solidifies the commitment and can help with accountability. You will think twice about grabbing that big slice of cake or skipping the gym, if others know about your resolution. Enlist friends or family to help you stay accountable, or post your intentions on social media so you can share your progress towards your goal. Having a band of cheerleaders can help motivate change.

 Goals without plans are just wishes.

3.      Make a SMART plan. Make sure your resolution is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. An example of a SMART plan would be, “I will lose 10 pounds by June 1 by eating 200 calories less per day and walking an extra 30 minutes per day.” With this plan, it’s clear specifically how much weight you intend to lose, it’s measurable, it’s achievable, it’s relevant and there’s a stated timeline. Many weight loss resolutions aren’t fulfilled because there’s no specific measurable goal, or the goal is not achievable (“I’ll lose 50 pounds by January 31”), there’s no plan for HOW this will happen and there’s no deadline stated. Goals without plans are just wishes.

4.      Have self-compassion. No one is perfect. It’s inevitable that you’ll work late and miss dinner with the family, or that you’ll scarf down a donut when you know you shouldn’t have, or that you’ll splurge on the new outfit when you promised yourself you’d live by the budget. Too often these slip-ups are the end of the resolution because we tend to think in all-or-nothing terms. But that’s not how change happens. It real life, change happens two steps forward, one step back. It’s forward progress, but just slower than what we’d hoped for. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself and revisit your commitment and recommit yourself to what you decided to do, and…

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

5.      Be persistent. No matter how many times you make a mistake or decide not to do what you said you intended to do, next time just do it. We are always in choice. Each new moment gives us the opportunity to make a new choice, so if you decided to sleep through the alarm and skip the gym yesterday, today you can decide to get up and go work out. If you snapped at your brother after you swore to be nicer, next time count to 10 before you respond to him. Every moment is a new opportunity to become the person you want to be.

Marianne Williamson said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

By following these five simple steps, your resolution can become a reality. Have the courage to dream big and move forward with the power of intention and commitment.  

Happy New Year!

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© 2018 Terry B. McDougall