Make a New Year's Resolution that Sticks

January is the one month of the year where we all have something in common: we get a fresh start. Whether your new start is real or imagined, we all share in the sense that the new year will bring new and exciting experiences, more organization, less procrastination, a leaner body and more time spent with friends and/or family. Of course, we are speaking of the New Year’s Resolution. So whatever yours is this year, here are a few tips on how to make and keep your resolve.

1. Be specific. Vague resolutions like “meet new people” or “get organized” are typically doomed to fail from the start. Your Resolution needs to be specific so that you know not only how to accomplish it but also when and if you have. So instead of “meeting new people,” resolve to join a new club, learn a new sport or organize a community event. Rather than purporting to “get organized,” decide to clean out the garage or dedicate yourself to keeping an up-to-date planner.

2. Be realistic. Resolutions like “losing weight”, “getting in shape” or “driving less” are all great in theory however, they need to be practical. By setting a realistic (and specific) goal, you will keep your motivation and avoid frustration and burn out. Therefore, decide you want to lose 25 pounds this year and thus stay away from crash dieting and unnecessary stress by allowing yourself the time to accomplish an achievable goal. Instead of “driving less,” calculate how many miles you drive per week normally and try to cut this by 5-10 miles a week.

3. Make a timeline. If you have set up a larger than life goal…or even if you haven’t, make up a timeline with smaller goals along the way. A checkpoint system will keep you on track and make your ultimate goal seem closer to accomplishment. For example, if your resolution is to cut television/electronic consumption down, start by figuring out how many hours a day you spend using electronics for pleasure. From there, decrease consumption by 30 minutes or an hour a day for a month. Then, in month two, decrease by another hour. Continue in this way until your technology consumption is where you think it should be. This process will work for any resolution, whether it’s losing weight, going green, volunteering or staying in touch with friends.

4. Commit. Once you have specific, realistic goals and a plan with which to conquer them, set up a series of consequences and rewards to match your timeline. Gone a week without a single serve coffee or cut 30 miles of driving this month? Use that extra money to buy a treat for yourself. Skipped two days at the gym this week? Forgo those nachos at happy hour. Rewards and consequences make your goals part of your everyday life rather that an abstract idea.

So whatever your New Year’s Resolution may be, there is a pragmatic way to accomplish it. The key to making, maintaining and ultimately achieving your goal or set of goals is to be specific and realistic. Once your resolution is clearly defined, a strong commitment is all that is needed to guarantee success. Happy New Year!!

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