Tips for Making a New Year’s Resolution You’ll Actually Keep

Pledge to shed those same ten pounds every year? Promise that you’re going to quit smoking… or stop drinking? Vow to get out of debt and start saving money? Setting goals and resolutions for yourself for the new year is a healthy activity that encourages self awareness and transformation. But unfulfilled resolutions can lead to disappointment and negativity.

That’s why this year our resolution is to help you keep yours! And we’ve put together a list of manageable tips to help you do it.

First of all, you have to work toward something you actually want. A half-hearted commitment to a goal drastically reduces your likelihood of reaching it. This will take some personal reflection, maybe some soul-searching, and openness to change your point of view. Because it’s not about criticizing yourself, focusing on your shortcomings, or looking to be more like someone else around you. Instead, New Year’s Resolutions should be about embracing yourself and having gratitude for the chance to do something to make your life healthier and happier.

You may have heard about S.M.A.R.T. goals. Well, the methods used in S.M.A.R.T. can help you to keep those New Year’s resolutions, too!  S.M.A.R.T. teaches that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. (Though we have some additional suggestions for what those letters could mean!)

SMART Starts with Specific. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general one. You might say you want to “get in shape,” but it’s no surprise that a resolution like this one isn’t one you can stick with for the long haul. Instead, ask yourself the six W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Which, and Why) and set a goal more like: I want to join a health club in my neighborhood and work out there 3 days a week.

S can also stand for Simple. Overly complicated plans and intentions don’t usually get too far off the ground, so choose something that’s straightforward and not confusing.

Make it Measurable. Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the goal you set. When progress is measurable, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience a pride in your achievement that spurs you on to reach farther and do more. Additionally, you might want to set yourself up to have even your smaller successes be visible to others.  Positive reinforcement can be a great motivator.

Assure that it is Attainable. Everyone always encourages you to reach for the stars — and we love the thought — but reaching for something you actually can touch is something we love even more. This means that we encourage you to make resolutions that are realistically possible, because then you will be able to scrounge up the motivation to achieve them and genuinely want to achieve them. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you start figuring out ways to make them come true, whether it’s developing new attitudes, abilities, skills, or the financial capacity to reach them. So we’ll argue that you can attain almost any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps.

Be Realistic. Similar to attainability, resolutions must be realistic, meaning goals that represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. Yes, a goal can be both high and realistic, and you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. We’ll suggest you start small. Set goals with the opportunity for short-term success, or success that builds upon itself. A cold-turkey smoking cessation can be daunting, so focus on having just one less cigarette each week  (or each day!) and celebrate each small success as you move forward to cross your next hurdle.

We also like R for Relevant.  Choosing a resolution arbitrarily because it sounds good (or easy!) doesn’t speak strongly to the soul-searching we mentioned above (remember that we’ve decided to strive for something that makes us happier and healthier, and we resolve to change or do something we actually want?!) Without passion and drive, your goals don’t go anywhere, and they can’t make you a better you. So choose something that’s relevant to get you from where you are to where you want to go.

Make Resolutions Timely. A goal should be grounded within a time frame. No time frame means no sense of urgency. So you want to save for your future, but without a schedule, your deadline stretches into “someday”… which may morph into “never.” Instead, anchor it with a target date or timeframe — which can easily be Dec. 31st, of course —but could also be set in smaller increments, or more manageable chunks.

T can also stand for Tangible.  A goal is tangible when you can experience it with one of the senses, that is, taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing. A tangible goal gives you a better chance of making it specific and measurable… and thus attainable.

In addition to setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, some additional general tips that may help you make a New Year’s Resolution you’ll actually keep are to be flexible (allow your goals, and your methods to achieve them, a little breathing room as needed), focus on the positive (tell yourself that you’ll eat one green vegetable every day, not that you’ll cut out all sweets), and do it with a community (working toward a goal with others that have a like-minded attitude toward success not only boosts enthusiasm and commitment, but also creates accountability).

Yes, it’s that time.  Perhaps it’s the perception of starting out with a clean slate, or maybe it’s because you can usually get a better deal on membership programs (like at the gym). Whatever the reason, now is the most popular time for setting a goal, and we hope these tips will help you make a resolution you can keep!

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Kate Michael

Kate Michael

Kate Michael is a Writer, Event Emcee, On-Camera Host and Fashion/Commercial Model. Follow on Twitter @kstreetkate