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How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

What are you putting on your list?
What are you putting on your list?

New year’s resolutions are a great way to improve our lives. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, researchers determined around 50% of people make resolutions each year. That’s a great start. The problem is how few people manage to follow through.  

According to a study from the University of Scranton, 77% kept their resolution the first week. That dropped to 64% at the end of the first month, 50% after three months and 46% at the six-month mark. After two years only 19% said they were successful.

Resolutions can’t help if you quit. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to significantly improve your odds.

Don’t look at resolutions as something you can only do on new year’s eve, make them something you repeat throughout the year. I set an alarm to consider new goals on the 10th day of each month. I don’t do it on the 1st because that’s when too many other things are due and I wouldn’t be able to give it the attention it deserves. Then I make sure to read through those resolutions every morning as I start my day. Those regular reminders help keep me on track.

Make concrete plans. Don’t resolve to workout more, that’s far too vague. Pledge to exercise at least two days a week, then pull out your calendar and put those workouts on the schedule. You may have to alter those plans over time, but at least you’ll know what’s needed to achieve your goals. 

Focus on the immediate. What can you do today to get closer to your goal? When I get up, I can’t guarantee I’ll have the willpower to avoid eating fast food for lunch. But I can take a couple minutes to make a healthier lunch and bring it with me. That way when lunchtime arrives, I don’t have to think about making a good decision or try to use willpower to pick healthy options. The decision is already made for me.

Make the changes positive actions, not punishment or deprivation. For example, if you’re trying to eat healthier, don’t obsess about what you shouldn’t have. Treat it as a chance to explore new recipes. Here are a couple of examples.  

  • Pick a different spice each week and find a healthy recipe you can cook with it. Start with what’s already in your spice rack, and then investigate what they have at the grocery store.
  • Increase your fiber intake by learning more recipes with whole grains in them. Choose from barley, bran, buckwheat, corn, flaxseed, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum and spelt. There’s one for every month of the year and a bonus one.

Bundle your resolutions with rewards. Don’t just sit on the couch like a lump and watch whatever’s on. Allow yourself to watch that TV show you enjoy, but only if you’re exercising while it’s on.

When you do make progress, reward yourself. That doesn’t mean you can eat a donut after every workout. But if you’re achieving your goals, plan on doing something special at various milestones. Invite friends over for games, get a new piece of clothing or split a dessert with a friend. Schedule your rewards with the same diligence you schedule working on your resolutions.

Don’t look at a slip up as failure. A full 71% of people who succeed stumbled in the first month. Surprisingly, the number of people who failed slipped up at the same rate as the successful ones. The key to long-term success was not quitting after a mistake.

When you have a problem, acknowledge it and re-dedicate yourself to the program. If you continue to fail, you may need to change the situations you put yourself in or re-evaluate your goals and make sure they’re realistic.

Finally, write it all down. Keep track of what’s working and what’s not. Then you can go back and make changes to keep improving your chances of success. There’s no better time to start than today.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.