As the new year approaches, many of us think about setting goals and making resolutions. We determine it’s finally time to lose weight, get our finances under control or quit smoking. But often by February or March, we’ve lost focus on our goal, gone back to old habits and have written off the chance to make a meaningful change. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are steps you can take to ensure that you achieve your goals this year.
What is your resolution for the new year? If you plan to make one, here are some tips to keep you on track.
10 Tips to Help Make Your Resolution Stick
- Create a specific, measurable goal. Instead of just saying “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be healthier” or “I want to manage my money better,” try to set a specific goal you can measure. “I want to lose 10 pounds by June 1” or “I want to walk three times a week” or “I want to save $50 each month.” Once you have a defined goal, it will be easier to work toward it.
- Choose a goal that matters to you. If your messy house doesn’t bother you, getting more organized isn’t going to be super motivating. If you hate running, signing up for a marathon probably won’t stick. These might be goals you’re setting for other people or for the wrong reasons. Instead choose a goal that is important to you that you’re motivated to stick to.
- Be realistic. It’s fun to set lofty goals, but it’s also fun to succeed. Small incremental changes are easier to build on and may last longer. For example, saying you’ll work out every day may cause you to overdo it and injure yourself. Quitting smoking cold turkey may lead to withdrawal symptoms you aren’t prepared for. Set a goal that’s realistic and allows you to succeed. You can always add to it. If you find it’s easy to save $50 a month, up it to $100 once you know you can do it.
- Take time to plan how you’ll reach your goal. Don’t decide on your resolution as the clock counts down to midnight. Put some effort in beforehand. What steps do you need to take first? If you’re planning to stop eating fast food, do you have healthier options at home or time to meal plan? If you want to stop drinking, do you have a support system in place to help you along the way? Having a plan will help when you wake up ready to go in the new year.
- Be flexible when challenges arise. If you set a goal of running three times a week, but then sprain your ankle, what will you do instead to continue working toward your goal? If you’re saving $50 a month and your car needs an unexpected repair, how will you handle it without feeling like you failed?
- Be patient. It takes time to form bad habits, so it may take just as long to change them. Give yourself grace if you slip up and remember that the journey toward your goal matters too. If your goal was to read 12 books this year and you only read 10, you still read 10 books you may not have otherwise. If you wanted to lose 20 pounds and only lost 10, you still did something awesome for your body.
- Monitor your progress and measure your success. You can keep a journal, find an app that tracks your goal, keep a note on your phone or use a spreadsheet that tracks what you’re trying to achieve. You can look at your progress as often as you need to in order to stay motivated.
- Get a support system in place. Tell people your plan and ask them to hold you accountable. Maybe it’s your partner working on a savings goal with you. Maybe it’s a friend who can help you quit smoking by keeping you busy on your lunch break. Or maybe it’s an online community working on the same goals. You may need the extra inspiration on days when reaching your goal feels extra tough.
- Be prepared for sabotage or for people who don’t want you to change. If you have a group of people you smoke with at work, and you suddenly stop, they may feel like it’s somehow a judgment on them. If you always go to happy hour on Fridays but stop drinking, you may get pressured by your friends to rejoin them. Be prepared for how you want to handle this.
- Reward yourself and have fun with your resolution. If you set a goal that is going to take all year to accomplish, reward yourself as you go. If your goal is to stop smoking, maybe reward yourself after two weeks by buying something with the money you’ve saved on cigarettes. If you’ve walked three times a week for a month straight, maybe it’s time for a new pair of shoes. These rewards will help keep you motivated as the year goes on.
Be patient. It takes time to form bad habits, so it may take just as long to change them. Give yourself grace if you slip up and remember that the journey toward your goal matters too.
If you’re tired of setting the same goals year after year and need something different, here are some fun ideas you could try this time around:
- Read one book each month.
- Meditate for 10-30 minutes each week.
- Complete one random act of kindness each month.
- Reach out to five old friends this year.
- Try a new activity you’ve always thought about (knitting, swimming, rock climbing, photography, etc.).
- Organize one place in your house each month (a junk drawer, a closet, etc.).
- Write one meaningful email or letter each month to someone you care about.
- Try one new recipe every month.
- Make weekend dinners screen-free (no phone checking or TV in the background).
- Plan and save for a trip you’ve always wanted to take.
- Take a 24-hour social media break once a week.
No matter what you decide for next year’s resolution, be sure to have a happy new year! And remember, a resolution can be made any day of the year. If your New Year’s resolution doesn’t work out, start again. There’s nothing wrong with starting over.