Making New Year’s Resolutions That Stick

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

As the year winds to a close, people start to talk about their New Year’s Resolutions. Common resolutions revolve around losing weight, exercising more, starting a new hobby, getting rid of clutter, and saving money. While it’s fun to make the list and talk about lofty goals for self-improvement, most resolutions to change one’s habits end in defeat within a matter of weeks or, if you’re particularly determined, a few months.

Every year we make the same resolutions only to lose motivation and momentum, and yet we seem to think that each new year will be ‘the year’ we are magically able to follow through. Some have wearied of this trend and in frustration decided to stop making resolutions altogether. Although this disillusioned attitude is more realistic, it doesn’t help you accomplish your goals, many of which are very achievable with the right approach and tools. Here are some tips on how to make your New Year’s Resolutions last all year long and become beneficial changes in your life.

Realize that studies show it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit. Newer research indicates it takes at least 66, or about 2 months. When you start something new or quit something old, it takes a little time to re-train your brain. Don’t feel too bad if you get off the bandwagon a little early; research also shows that when you finally resume, it’s easier for your brain to pick it back up again. View each failure as an exercise in re-training your brain, and keep on going.

It’s not always best to go cold-turkey. Some people have successfully quit habits such as overspending or smoking by quitting suddenly and harshly, but the majority of us will not respond well. We do the things we do because we like them; abstaining from certain activities that are habits will result in ‘withdrawal’ just as with physical addictions to nicotine or caffeine. Gradually scaling back on the habit you want to eliminate, or gradually introducing a new habit you want to cultivate will acclimate you to the new ‘temperature’ of your lifestyle (you’ve heard the frog analogy).

Ensure your resolutions lead you toward your personal goals. Making a resolution just to make a resolution won’t get you anywhere. It has to be something that is deeply personal to have any sticking power. Trying to get out of debt is a common resolution, but if you don’t have any particular reason to get out of debt to motivate you, it might be harder to follow through. You have to know why you’re making the change and what it will help you accomplish.

Have both short and long-term goals. It’s best to set both short-term and long-term goals in order to maintain motivation, especially if you expect it to take several months or years to reach. For instance, if you’re trying to lose weight, your ultimate goal may be to fit into a certain size. This is your long-term goal. Your short-term goal should be something achievable in a much shorter time-frame, and be accompanied by a reward, such as a new outfit or a day at the spa (not an indulgence in the habit you’re trying to break).

Stay accountable. Achieving your New Year’s Resolutions will not be easy. Having the encouragement, objective opinion, feedback, and motivation of people you trust can help a lot along the way. Entrust someone who is not working on the same resolution to keep you accountable and gently prod you when necessary; find someone working on the same goal to commiserate with and share insider tips.

Being serious about forming new habits and getting rid of bad ones requires dedication, consistency, and the ability to motivate and challenge as well as forgive and accept yourself.  Being mentally prepared for the long haul and specifically planning for each step along the way will help you break free of the statistics and accomplish all of your New Year’s Resolutions this year.

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