8 Tricks to Make Those Resolutions Stick

8 Tricks to Make Those Resolutions Stick

Keep all of your New Year goals by following these expert hints and tips!

By: Heather Chaet

I am a resolutioner. I think I just made up that word, but it’s an apt description. I always make New Year’s resolutions. I have probably made resolutions each Jan. 1 since I was, oh, 18 or so. I’m 42 now, so that means 24 years of resolution making.

How successful have I been in achieving those New Year goals? You had to ask that, didn’t you? I admit it. I have failed. Failed many years. Failed more often than I’ve succeeded. I can count on both hands the years I actually achieved my New Year’s resolutions. I have comfort that I’m not alone with my failed resolution attempts. According to a University of Scranton study, only 8 percent of folks who make resolutions actually attain them.

It has me scratching my head as to why, some years, I am victorious in my Jan. 1 goals, and other times I’m not. This year, I’m vowing to do it differently. I talked to some experts and got their top tricks to make those resolutions stick.

1. Start small. “You might want to hit the gym five times a week, but if you currently aren't going, that's a huge leap that might not last too long,” notes Georgie Fear, registered dietitian and nutrition coach and author of Lean Habits. “A better idea? Start with setting a goal of going at least two times a week, and if you surpass your own expectations, that's great! You can always increase the challenge down the road.” Fitness trainer Holly Del Rosso agrees. “Set one small goal per day that is doable, such as swapping a soda for water or a hamburger for lean meat and veggies,” she suggests “Small steps each day will ensure you feel accomplished, in comparison to large goals that can feel unattainable.”

2. Be as specific as possible. “If your New Year’s resolutions are written in broad terms, you’ve set yourself up to fail, because how do you know when you’ve achieved those things?” notes Maura Thomas, productivity trainer, speaker, and author of Personal Productivity Secrets. “For achieving goals, first you have to turn them into a project. A project has a specific beginning and end. If you don’t have a specific action identified, that task is less likely to get done, and as a result, that project is less likely to move forward. Resolutions such as ‘Lose weight’ or ‘Get healthier’ are too vague. What are the actionable steps you need to achieve those goals? Examples may be ‘Work out at the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after work’ or ‘Put organic vegetables on the weekly shopping list.’”

3. Space out your resolutions. Psychotherapist, author, and television and radio commentator Mary Jo Rapini suggests spacing out your resolutions over the course of the year, rather than starting all of them in January. “You can adopt one new habit, but working on five is going to become overwhelming, and you will be more likely to give up mid-January,” says Rapini. “List one thing you want to change for January and complete that by March. Have another habit you want to acquire in March, and then work on that through June. Most habits become habits after 30-90 days. If you give yourself enough time with one and practice it, there is a good chance you will continue with it.”

4. Work the power of the crowd. “See if you have a friend who is also interested in the same resolutions as you. If you have a friend doing it with you, you are held more accountable and more likely to reach your goal,” says counseling psychologist and author Nicole Paulie. Fear agrees. “If you have a friend to try and eat healthier with you, you can swap recipes and keep each other accountable,” she suggests. “If you hire a professional such as a dietitian, personal trainer, or coach, they may be willing to give you a discount for working together.”

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5. Change your environment. Whether you stash some hand weights by the couch to firm up triceps as you watch TV at night or you tweak the bedtime schedule so you have more chances to connect with your kids, altering your surroundings and routines can have a huge effect on the success of a goal. “Modify your environment to support you,” says Fear. “For example, if you want to eat less potato chips, not having five bags of chips at home helps. Keep snack foods in the basement instead of the kitchen to make them just slightly less convenient. Research shows that what is more physically accessible, visible, and convenient is most likely to get eaten.”


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6. Plan ahead for when it will get tough. “There are going to be times when you feel an urge to smoke that cigarette, or skip the gym, or eat that candy bar. Have a small, portable kit or piece of paper you carry that will help you to overcome those urges,” suggests Paulie. “This could be a list containing positive affirmations and all the reasons why you DON'T want to give into that urge. It could be a bag that contains alternatives to your urge, like a herbal tea packet or a granola bar. Include photos that represent your goal – anything that will help you when you're feeling low levels of motivation. This way when those urges arise, you don't have to try to think of what could help you in the situation. They're already there.”

7. Reward yourself. As you reach each milestone, give yourself a little pat on the back. “Develop some type of reward system into your resolution plan,” says Rapini. “Be prepared to reward yourself after you have made small steps toward your goal.”

8. Know what you will do when you fail. There’s a 99.9 percent chance that you will slip up or have a bad day (or, let’s face it, a bad week). How you recover from that setback is the no. 1 indicator for success. “Change is hard. Remind yourself that if you slip up, it's OK because you're going to try again tomorrow,” suggests Paulie. “Just because you gave in and did the thing you're trying not to do doesn't mean all your hard work and effort was wasted. Learn from it. Identify what increased your chances of slipping up so you know how to work around it the next time.” Rapini agrees. “We all fall backwards sometime, but that is not a reason to give up on your change. Expect it, and have a plan in place to get back on track.”

What are your top New Year’s resolutions for 2015?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com , Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/lolostock

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