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How to Make New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

Venn Crawford

It’s almost a new year – the days are already getting longer, sunlight stretching out a little further every evening. You can feel a fresh sort of energy in the air. And, like many, that energy might inspire you to think about how you’ll change this year, how you’ll make efforts to be a new, better, you. You might even make a New Year’s resolution.

But, in two weeks, or a month (or for some of us the third day of January), most of us will give up on our New Year’s resolution. That inspiring energy fades, and life gets in the way. We just can’t make our resolution stick.

The thing is, changing our habits is hard, and New Year’s doesn’t change that. But if you approach it right, you can make a change any time of the year.

Keep it Simple and Easy

Starting a regular workout routine when you’ve never even gone to the gym before is daunting. The gym membership costs money, you end up sore and tired, you may not have proper clothes or anyone to go with you. There are endless difficulties, frustrations, and barriers, and every single one of them turns into a great excuse for “not today.”

Big changes are difficult changes. Life will get in the way, and if what you’re asking of yourself is a lot, it’ll be easier to let yourself slide. If you hope to stick to your New Year’s resolution, don’t make it effort-intensive. Make it easy for yourself.

Trying to drag ourselves to the gym for three times every week just isn’t going to work out for some of us. But if we just ask ourselves to be active three times a week, we have some wiggle room. We can still go to the gym, but we could also just go for a run. We don’t even have to run – if it’s been a rough day, we can just walk. But no matter what we’re doing, we’re still reaching the same place.

Focus on the Why

New Year’s resolutions aren’t generally things we want to do. We want their end result – losing weight, being healthier, growing our business – but we aren’t eager about the work it takes to get there. And New Year’s resolutions take work.

To keep your New Year’s resolutions, the work has to be worth it. The reason or endgame behind our resolution is what gives us the willpower to keep it. If that reason isn’t strong enough, we give up. Even the easiest and simplest of resolutions will fall by the wayside if our reason for them isn’t strong enough.

Don’t Go it Alone

If no one knows about our resolution, there’s no shame in quitting. But if we’ve got other people to hold us accountable, we’re much less likely to give up. We don’t want to disappoint others, so if you lack motivation, having someone to check in with might keep you on track.

For resolutions like working out, seeking accountability can be as easy as having a gym partner. Other resolutions, however, can be more hold yourself accountable for. In this situation, you’ll need to be more creative. If your resolution was to update your blog weekly, you might post your update schedule on social media so that others are aware of your deadline. You may also consider asking a friend to check in with you.

Start Building a Habit

The hardest step for tasks is getting started. If you can force yourself to take the first step, the rest will come much easier. If your New Year’s Resolution is writing a journal, don’t tell yourself that you have to write a whole page. Just tell yourself to start writing. Once you’ve written the first sentence, write the next one. You might not get a whole lot written the first few days, but that’s ok. The important part is to start – you can always build on what you have later.

Eventually, if you can keep starting every day, you’ll begin to form a habit. Think about brushing your teeth – we don’t really have to be reminded of this because we just do it. Bedtime comes around, and we brush our teeth. It’s a habit. And anything else can be a habit too, but you have to do it regularly for a while before it becomes one.

Another way to make this part easier is to have a “trigger” that reminds you to do the task. For example, you might brush your teeth after you put on pajamas – eventually, it feels “weird” when you break up that sequence. Whatever your tasks are, doing them in a set order can be a reminder and reinforce the habit.

Forming habits isn’t easy, and calling them New Year’s resolutions doesn’t change that. But with the right approach, this can be the year that sees a new and better you.

by Venn Crawford

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