notebook with new year's resolutions

    Published: February 11, 2016

    Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions

    By the end of January, most of the well-meaning New Year’s Resolutions we all make have fallen by the wayside. Gym memberships will gather dust, clutter we intend to get out of our lives will continue to claim space in our closets, and plans to save for dream vacations will fall victim to the monthly bills.

    The problem isn’t that making resolutions doesn’t work—the problem lies in making the wrong resolutions. Here are some tips to help you start meeting your goals.

    1. Be Specific

    Think about the average New Year’s Resolution. Losing weight, getting in shape, going to Bali, paying off the car loan. These are all wonderful dreams, but as they stand, that’s all they are—dreams.

    “Lose weight” is a very vague goal. “Lose twenty pounds” is more specific, but as a resolution, it still has a fatal flaw. It doesn’t offer any idea of how you’re going to attain your goal. Now consider these resolutions:

    • I will walk a mile a day.
    • I will drink fruit infusions instead of soda.
    • I will save $50 a month towards my dream vacation.
    • I will declutter one drawer or closet every weekend.

    All of these resolutions will put you on the path to achieving your goals. They require you to engage in a highly specific activity, so you know exactly what you have to do to meet your goal. They have something else in common too . . .

    1. Be Simple

    All of the sample resolutions given above are specific, but they’re also simple, and that’s important. Their simplicity makes them easier for our all-too-distractible brains to process, and harder to ignore if we start slipping up. Simple steps, over time, add up to success. Saving $50 a month doesn’t sound like much, but in a year you’ve got $600 towards that next vacation.

    1. Train Your Brain with Small Successes.

    We tend to treat willpower as if it’s a finite, pre-determined substance we can’t change. You’ve either got the willpower to run marathons, or you don’t, right?

    Wrong. Willpower is a skill, and like any skill, it gets better with practice and attaining goals—another reason to keep your resolutions challenging but obtainable. With each small success, your willpower gets a boost. So after a year of meeting your vacation saving goals every month, your stronger, fitter willpower might be up to increasing monthly savings from $50 to $75, and suddenly that trip to Bali is looking much closer.

    If you want examples of small but long-lasting resolutions that improve your life, your willpower, and the environment, check out our list of eco-friendly resolutions for ideas.

    Of course, meeting resolutions is only a small portion of the accomplishments we make over the course of a year. Celebrate your daily triumphs with a “Rememberlutions Jar.” Take an attractive glass bottle or jar and decorate it. Make it special.

    Now, every time you have triumph or success, write it down on a small piece of paper and put it in the jar. Got a raise? Put it in the jar. Learned a new skill? Into the jar it goes. Had a really happy or productive day? Into the jar. Met a New Year’s resolution? Into the jar it goes!

    At the end of the year empty the jar and see just how much you accomplished. You’ll be surprised at how much you got done and experienced that you might otherwise have forgetten. It’s a great feeling, and really gets you primed for the New Year—and a new round of resolutions.