How to Make (and Keep) a New Year’s Resolution
Are you making a resolution in the new year?
Warning: More than half of all resolutions fail, but this year, they don’t have to be yours. Here’s how to identify the right resolution to improve your life, create a plan on how to reach it, and become part of the small group of people that successfully achieve their goal
Pick the Right Resolution
You’ll give yourself your best shot at success if you set a goal that’s doable — and meaningful too.
A lot of these resolutions fail because they’re not the right resolutions. And a resolution may be wrong for one of three main reasons:
- It’s a resolution created based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change.
- It’s too vague.
- You don’t have a realistic plan for achieving your resolution.
Your goals should be smart — and SMART. That’s an acronym coined in the journal Management Review in 1981 for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. It may work for management, but it can also work in setting your resolutions, too.
- Specific. Your resolution should be absolutely clear. You want to have a goal: How much weight do you want to lose and at what time interval?
- Measurable. This may seem obvious if your goal is a fitness or weight loss-related one, but it’s also important if you’re trying to cut back on something, too. If, for example, you want to stop biting your nails, take pictures of your nails over time so you can track your progress in how those nails grow back out.
- Achievable. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have big stretch goals. But trying to take too big a step too fast can leave you frustrated, or affect other areas of your life to the point that your resolution takes over your life — and both you and your friends and family flail.
- Relevant. Is this a goal that really matters to you, and are you making it for the right reasons?
- Time-bound. Like “achievable,” the timeline toward reaching your goal should be realistic, too.
Create Your Plan
Your end goal won’t just magically appear. Here are ways to figure out how to get there.
Because you won’t just wake up and change your life, you not only need a plan for what to do, but also for what roadblocks you’ll come across along the way.
If you’re trying to form or break a habit, Mr. Duhigg suggested breaking down that habit into its three parts: a cue, a routine and a reward.
Bad Habit: I smoke.
Cue: I’m tired.
Routine: I smoke a cigarette.
Reward: I’m stimulated.
Way to change the behavior: Instead of smoking a cigarette, replace the stimulus with something else, like coffee.
Or if your habit affects your whole day?
Bad Habit: I don’t get enough sleep at night.
Cue: I feel like I need time to myself in the evening.
Routine: I stay up too late watching TV.
Reward: I’m entertained.
Way to change the behavior: Instead of staying up late to watch TV, carve out special time each day to spend by yourself, even if that may mean asking for help with your children or taking a break from work each day.
And be kind to yourself. We talk in much harsher tones to ourselves than we would to other people.
When resolutions run off the rails or fall apart but you still want to try again, talk to yourself like “a child who’s feeling discouraged. You wouldn’t say ‘that’s because you’re an idiot.’
You would say ‘come on you can do it.’”