Five Easy Tips for Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
January 1999; Reviewed: 21 Nov 2004

It's the end of the year, so it makes sense that we discuss how to make those New Year's resolutions come true (for a change!). If you're serious about keeping those resolutions, then you'll appreciate this article. I've outlined five tips to help make you more successful when making those resolutions.

1. Pick Realistic Goals
One of the biggest problems in keeping a resolution is that we simply aim too high. Resolving to look more like Cindy Crawford is an unrealistic resolution for anyone. Resolving to lose a few pounds or cut back on sweets are more realistic goals. Setting a goal of completely changing your life, your career, your family relations, etc. is too broad. Keep the goals small and simple. You'll find this tip alone will help you attain your goals.

Educate yourself about realistic goals, too. There are dozens of reliable and informative online sources to help you learn how to reduce your financial debt, lose weight, quit smoking, and improve your relationships, among many other things. If you need more information, now is the time to read-up on the things of interest to you to help you keep your resolution.

2. Define Those Goals
Saying you'll lose weight, change your job, or go back to school isn't good enough. You need to write down how specifically you are going to move toward those goals.

Want to lose a few pounds? Develop a weight loss plan which includes sensible eating with a regular exercise plan. Don't rely on magical solutions or weight loss pills to keep the weight off long-term.

Develop specific, concrete ways to reach your goal, but keep each step along the way small. Deciding to quit your job tomorrow without having even begun a new job search is not realistic. Instead, find one or two job possibilities online, or in your local newspaper's classified ads section. Tailor your resume for each job possibility, and send one or two out. Keep the quantities small and easily manageable.

Improving your relationship with your family or significant other is a good goal, but you need to figure out how exactly you will do that. Is it by talking more often to them and opening up with what's going on in your life? Or is it by doing more things with them? You decide, then set up small but specific tasks to accomplish which you believe will help the relationship (such as calling them on the telephone more often, or setting aside more time each week to just talk to them).

3. Set a Schedule
No goal is attainable without deciding when you're going to make the small changes needed to reach that goal. If you set no schedule for yourself, or -- as most people do -- set an unrealistic schedule, you are setting yourself up to fail. The schedule should be written down, just like your goal and the steps you will take to reach each goal. Losing a few pounds over a few months is realistic; losing a few pounds in a few days is not. Finding a new job within six months is realistic; finding one by the end of January is not. Improving your relationship with your significant other over the entire year is realistic; trying to do so overnight is impossible.

If your schedule involves things which need to be done daily or weekly, set specific times of the day or specific days of the week which you will use to work on it. Then do it, and keep written track of your keeping to that schedule. If you find a part of your schedule isn't working, don't be afraid to change it. The key is to stay flexible and adopt to changes needed to be successful in your goals.

4. Don't Be Upset by Setbacks
The old adage in therapy is two steps forward, one step back. The same could be said for New Year's Resolutions, which can often be the most difficult to keep. It may help, though, to remember that we're all human, we all make mistakes. It does no good to get depressed or disillusioned by setbacks in trying to reach your goals. In fact, if you know ahead of time that there are going to be times in which your resolve weakens or you don't live up to a certain step or schedule you've set, it can help when it does happen. It's a part of the process and means nothing more than a temporary setback. Putting such temporary setbacks into their proper perspective can help you move beyond them and put them behind you.

5. Enlist Additional Help or Support
Some people will find they just can't quit smoking on their own, or reduce their financial debt without additional help and support. Whether it's in the form of a professional, a family member, a friend, or some type of formal support group, consider enlisting someone's help. This shows that you are not only serious about keeping the resolution, but that you realize your own strengths and limitations.

For instance, a friend can help you practice communication skills, such as those you'd like to improve with your family or significant other. A financial manager can help you develop a realistic plan to get out of debt. A weight loss program or nutritionist can help a person lose weight and lead a more healthy lifestyle. Family members, friends, or even a professional can help you plan a career change, or a school advisor can help you decide whether to go back to school or not. Getting additional help or support in this manner is sensible way to help increase your success in maintaining your New Year's resolutions.

And remember...
Not every New Year's resolution was meant to be kept. Some are easier to keep than others. Sometimes it helps for a person to make a few fun resolutions you know are unrealistic and have no intentions of keeping. Since you'll break those right away, you will then have more time and energy to focus on the real ones. This may or may not work for everyone, so give it a try.

Keeping these few simple tips in mind this New Year may help to increase your chances of success. Consider that the new year is not only a time to make changes in your life, but also a time to be thankful for being alive and well for another year.


Related Resources


Reference:
Grohol, J.M. (Jan 1999). Five easy tips for keeping your New Year's resolutions [Online].


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jan 2007
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If you talk to God, you are praying.
If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.
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