Making Resolutions Stick in Seven Steps

Jan 9, 2014 | Personal

New Year’s Resolutions are made to be broken. We resolve to save more. Spend less. Quit smoking. Get fit. Instead of sticking with those lofty goals, we stink at them.
Half of us make resolutions. But a week after the ball drops in Times Square, a quarter of us have already dropped the ball! Six months later? Only 46 percent of us are still resolving. By year’s end, 88 percent of us have failed.
In fact, instead of becoming better in the New Year, the pressure to reverse our bad habits can increase our stress. Resolutions start as motivating, end as maddening. We can’t help ourselves. Humans are not naturally equipped to succeed at resolutions. Behavior change requires immense willpower. The part of the brain responsible for willpower, the prefrontal cortex, can’t handle that big, scary resolution. It goes into “cognitive overload.”
Like any muscle, your brain needs to get fit. You wouldn’t climb Everest if you can’t climb five flights of stairs. So do your brain a favor and employ the following tactics to assure you not only resolve, but succeed in 2014:
Simplify. Less is more. Analyze all you want to accomplish. Identify the one goal you most want and need.
Clarify. If our resolutions are vague, we can’t win. To accomplish our goals, we need an action plan. We can’t develop an effective plan with an abstract end (like “get fit”).
Write it down. Post the goal on your fridge or stick a note to your computer monitor. You haven’t really resolved until you’ve expressed your intent in writing.
Set baby steps. Want to complete a marathon by 2015? Create a weekly plan so easy you can’t fail. Start with one mile and build to five, then ten. Have your weekly steps reflect your increasing fitness.
Enlist. Make yourself accountable to others. Join a running club, support group or class. Set up a Facebook group or email blast. Share your successes and setbacks each week. Don’t go it alone. The sum is greater than its parts.
Gain perspective. Creating SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Trackable) goals fosters positive habits. Likewise, “bad habits” aren’t developed overnight. You are entitled to stumble. Don’t let tiny setbacks or splurges derail you.
Reward. You’ve worked hard to turn a corner! Treat yourself. Rewards for achieving milestones are encouraged, on your journey. Few motivators work as well or feel as good.
See the “resolution” for what it is: A life-empowering goal. Shout it from the rooftops. Just don’t do too much, too soon. After all, we are made (not born) to succeed.
With support in tow, let’s defy and positively alter the dire pass-fail rates in 2014!