Top 5 Ways to Make Resolutions Stick

The new year is a natural time to make new resolutions. Whether your resolutions are goals or habits, these five tips will help make them stick.

1. Be Specific

After another year of the same old thing, it is particularly likely that you may be motivated to try something new. Maybe you want to visit somewhere new, so you resolve to travel more. That’s a great idea, but it will never happen if you don’t get more specific. Start with just one country you’ve always wanted to visit. Let’s say it’s Brazil. Good start, but what time of year would you want to visit? The more you start actually imagining yourself in a specific place, the more you start to realize specific needs. For example, maybe you realize you hate crowds and you have some reservations about the heat, so you decide the off season is best and choose mid November. Now you’ve got a location AND a spot on the calendar and now you’re on your way!

2. Be Realistic

Often when we are inspired to begin a new habit, we are inclined to be overly ambitious. Let’s say you want to start working out and do something about that spare tire around your waist. You may make a resolution to join a gym and work out for an hour a day until you get those 6 pack abs. You didn’t have a spare hour before, so why would you now? Even if you did, are you suddenly going to be motivated to do and hour of intense physical work every day after years of low activity? Probably not. But maybe you can get a half hour workout in, in your home, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, after the kids go to school. That’s realistic, to stick.

3. Unclog Last Year

Clutter is like a clog in a pipe. Just as a clog prevents water from flowing, clutter prevents new initiatives from flowing. Whether it’s unused clutter, unnecessary paper, or wasteful activities, clear them out! It feels great and it creates space for new and better things to come into your life.

4. Break It Down

Goals are projects and for projects to be completed, they need to be broken down into manageable tasks. Let’s use that trip to Brazil as an example again. If you were leaving tomorrow, it probably wouldn’t happen, but mid November is 46 weeks away. Even if you do just one task a week, you could probably still comfortably achieve that goal. My favorite tool for breaking down projects are the mini Post-It’s (1.5 x 2). It’s just enough space to write “Google travel agent” on one and “order Learn Portugese CD” on another. Collect all these steps on one page and remove a Post-it or two, to work it into your schedule, on a weekly basis. When you break it down, you keep your goal realistic and real sticky.

5. Be Forgiving!

Let’s say you miss a day of exercise or miss a week of doing one of your Brazil trip goals. Don’t give up! Give yourself a break. Researchers have discovered that it takes anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. Succeeding at your resolutions does not come from sticking perfectly to a plan, it comes from getting back up after you’ve fallen. So what if you’ve skipped a step or skipped a day? You’re still well ahead of where you’d be if you didn’t reach for a goal or a new habit at all. So keep going!

Of course it is easier to get back on track, if you start by being specific, being realistic, clearing your path, and breaking your goals down into manageable tasks. Follow these steps and make it stick!