How to Make Attainable New Year’s Resolutions and Make them Stick

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When the end of December comes around, people worldwide start to make resolutions for the things they want better in their lives for the upcoming year. This includes everything, from eating healthier, exercising more, being more present in their relationships, staying in touch with family and friends, and being more productive with their time.

While more people approach their resolutions with good intentions, the real challenge comes with the follow-through. According to the U.S News and World Report, by the time we get to the second week of February, around eighty percent of resolutions have failed.

If you are one of the twenty percent of people who can make and stick to their New Year’s Resolutions, you are doing great! And there is nothing wrong with sticking to what is working for you. However, if you are like many people and struggle with keeping your resolution, do not despair. There are a few strategies you can employ to transform your life this year.

The following tips can be used regardless of whether you’ve resolved to exercise more, eat better, lose weight, or be more present. The main idea is that you want to approach the new year and your resolutions with a different mindset. The tips below are meant to help you rethink the way you create your resolutions, and help you make them stick.

#1: Consider Your Current Habits

The first thing you should do when you resolve to adopt healthier habits is to analyze what your current attitude towards that habit is. For example, if you want to have healthier eating habits, consider your current attitude towards food and your behavior around food. Doing this will help you gain insight into what is currently working for you and what isn’t. By pinpointing the situations that lead you to make unhealthy food choices, you will be better able to avoid unhealthy choices in those same situations.

If you aren’t able to know why you have developed a habit, or what leads you to exhibit specific behavior, it will be a lot harder to avoid the situations that lead to those behaviors being triggered. Once you have identified your triggers, you can create an in-then plan to help you achieve your goals. For example, you can tell yourself, “If I’m feeling bored in the evening while I am watching television, then I will draw to keep my hands busy.”

#2: Use Habit Tracking to Make Your Habits Sitck

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The majority of resolutions that are made revolve around creating new and better habits. This includes things like going to the gym before work, including more vegetables in your diet, or spending more time outdoors.

But it turns out, creating new habits is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is one of the hardest. So instead of trying to create a new habit from scratch, try building off the habits that you already have.

The concept of habit stacking is actually quite simple, and implementing it is easier than you might think. The main idea behind habit stacking is that every time you do your current habit, you also do your new habit.

Here are a couple of examples:

If you want to be more connected to your family and not just check-in through social media, make a habit of calling them daily. Habit stack this daily phone call onto your drive home after work. Every time I get into the car to drive home, I will call my family member to say hello.

If you want to start running every day, decide what time is best to go running. If it is first thing in the morning, stick running onto something that is already a consistent part of your morning routine. Every time I drink my coffee in the morning, I will put on my shoes and run one mile.

Implementing new habits into your routine becomes easier when they build onto habits that are already ingrained into your behaviors and thought processes. Once the new habits become ingrained into your routine, you will be well on your way to transforming your life in the new year.

#3: Be Kinder to Yourself

Do you tend to strive for perfection and beat yourself up when you are not able to meet the goals you set for yourself? If you can answer yes, then changing your inner dialogue might be the key to helping you improve your chances of achieving your goals this year.

There has been research done showing that the if-then strategy is less effective for those who are highly self-critical. And when these highly self-critical people aren’t successful, it leads to feeling terrible about themselves and their efforts.

One way to help improve your chances of being successful with your New Year’s Resolutions is by adjusting your inner dialogue to allow for more patience, self-kindness, and self-compassion.

Shifting your thought process is essential for moving past the grip that your inner self-critic has on you. It frees you to make choices that will help propel you forward in your goals. Changing your thinking will allow you to act instead of procrastinating and take risks instead of being immobilized by your fear of failure. (7 Steps to Take to Be Nicer to Yourself)

#4: Plan to Fail

You have probably heard the adage “failing to plan, is planning to fail.” While there certainly is some truth to this, there is a more empowering way to look at failure. “Planning to fail, is planning to succeed.” That’s right, to transform your life, you need to plan to fail.

Regardless of how committed and determined you are to your New Year’s Resolutions, you are likely going to run into obstacles, challenges, and roadblocks along the way. Instead of taking the challenges as they come, plan for them, and come up with solutions ahead of time.

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For example, your goal is to spend less time on your phone and be more present with the things going on around you. This is a big change, and chances are you are going to slip up and there will come a day that you spend more time than you want to on your phone. You can plan for this slip up ahead of time by telling yourself that if you find yourself scrolling through social media during a time you don’t intend to, you will allow yourself five minutes to look at your phone, and then put it away and engage your family in a board game. This gives you a game plan, which helps stop those inevitable slip-ups from knocking your whole resolution off the rails.

Remember what we said before about self-compassion. Don’t beat yourself up for failing. Everyone slips up sometimes. Instead of focusing on the slip-up, focus on how you handled the slip-up and what you did to put yourself back on the right track.

#5: Chose a Word to Live By

Many people set specific, measurable goals when they are setting their New Year’s Resolutions, and they can succeed. For others, structured and specific goals seem overwhelming, especially after many years of not meeting their goals. If you are looking for an alternative to the traditional New Year’s Resolution, consider choosing a word for the year.

This word will be the theme for your year and will help to set the tone for how you want to live, overall. The word you choose will give you a framework for evaluating your choices and help you take steps daily that will guide you into your theme.

The word you choose can be anything from “growth” and “change” to “power” and “peace.” Regardless of what word you choose, write it down and put it somewhere you are going to see it every day. Being able to see it every day will give you a daily reminder of what you are striving to achieve over the year.

While this seems like a simple way to look at New Year’s Resolutions, it sets you up to achieve a major transformation in your life.

#6: Rethink Your Time Frame

Immediate gratification is something that we all like to have in our lives. Yet, a study that was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people are more likely to choose New Year’s Resolutions that come with delayed rewards, such as losing weight.

Since we all like to experience immediate gratification, it makes sense that you are likely to do a better job with your resolutions if you can feel rewarded right away. This doesn’t mean that you can’t set those long-term goals. When you are setting your goals, consider ways you can achieve them while you are having fun. This can mean choosing a workout class that you are excited to try, only listening to your favorite podcast while you are on the treadmill or meeting a friend at a salad bar once a week for lunch. Regardless of what you choose, ensure that you aren’t just gritting your teeth and getting through uninspiring workouts or bland meals. To ensure that you can get the new behaviors to truly stick, find some pleasure in the process.

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