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How to Set Resolutions You Don't Immediately Break

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Dec 22, 2014 10:32 AM

All change begins with a personal resolution to do better or try something different. As New Year's approaches, many are carefully considering the changes they would like to make in 2015.

Unfortunately, New Year's resolutions are often hindered by the stigma of past failures. For some people, "New Year's resolution" is just another way of saying "a promise I don't intend to keep."

Resolutions are meant to be challenging, and that challenge is what makes them so difficult to keep. As you create your New Year's resolutions, keep these tips in mind to help you stick to your goals.

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Be Specific and Realistic

If your resolutions are vague or nebulous, you're setting yourself up to fail. Goals like "I want to be thin" or "I want to be rich" or "I want to be adventurous" are so ill-defined they are impossible to measure or track. Stop and ask yourself, "what do I mean by thin [rich, adventurous, etc]?"

Instead, start by setting a concrete goal and then break it down into manageable, measurable pieces. Instead of "I want to be thin," make a resolution you will exercise four times a week and practice portion control.

Break it down further from there and get specific about what you mean about portion control. Will you count calories? Switch your oversized plates and bowls out for smaller ones? How will you practice portion control when at a restaurant?

Instead of "I want to be rich," commit to putting a certain amount in savings each month, then make a budget that will help you manage your spending and meet your goal.

Above all, make sure your resolution is something you actually want to do. The most unrealistic, unmet resolutions are the ones you make because you just feel they're something you "ought" to do.

Leave Room for Slip-Ups

Many people set themselves up for failure by taking a "one-slip-up-and-it's-all-over" approach to resolutions. This mentality becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for failure. You are going to slip up. Nobody can be perfect all the time.

Ask yourself, is keeping a resolution any different than learning a new life skill? The answer is no! If you were learning to drive a stick shift or a new painting technique or how to cook, you wouldn't expect to be perfect from day one, would you? Of course not. We expect a certain amount of mistakes when trying something new or different. So why do people believe that a few slip-ups or a little back-sliding means it's time to give up on their resolution?

It sounds counter-intuitive, but when you're setting your resolutions, go in with the expectation that you'll make mistakes: an impulse purchase outside your budget, sleeping in instead of hitting the gym, indulging in one too many Valentine's chocolates. Decide ahead of time that when that happens, you will forgive yourself and try again the next day.

Incorporate Accountability

Resolutions are harder to keep if they never make it outside your head. A few people may be able to keep a resolution after merely thinking about it, but most others need to make their goals more tangible, either by writing them down or sharing them, to ensure success.

Putting your resolution in writing can serve as a contract with yourself, a much-needed reminder, a source of encouragement, or all of the above. Try writing down your goal and keeping it where you can see it. Put it on a Post-It on your bathroom mirror, make a motivational collage, or turn your goal into decorative word art that will sit in a pretty frame on your nightstand.

Today's technology means there are a variety of tools available to help keep you on track. Use an electronic calendar to schedule time for your goal and to send you reminders. Check the app store to find applications designed to help you track your specific goals. Use social media to share your goals with friends and family.

For accountability with consequences, try putting money on it.

Make it Fun

Look at resolutions as opportunities to make your life better, rather than viewing them as restrictions designed to make you suffer.

There's no need to make yourself miserable. Part of setting realistic -- and attainable -- goals is understanding what makes you happy and incorporating that into your resolution. For instance, when making a healthy eating resolution, don't try to cut out all the foods you love. Snacks, soda, carbs and other "unhealthy" items will only tempt you to break your resolution if you try to quit them all at once. Instead, make them a factor in your resolution. Eat fewer carbs instead of no carbs. Set a splurge day where you can have any dessert you want. Allow yourself two sodas a week.

Find ways to reward yourself. Or try combining the resolution with something fun. Use that time on the elliptical to catch up on your favorite TV shows or read your favorite books.

You can even find ways to combine resolutions in fun, exciting or rewarding ways. Let's say you have resolved to eat healthier and travel more. Set aside one day or weekend a month to travel to a new city, and make that day/weekend your break from your new meal plan: Go nuts and have fun trying a new cuisine. You'll be so busy running around that you'll probably be burning plenty of calories, anyway!

Make it Social

Activities are almost always more fun when they're shared. In addition to providing accountability, sharing your resolutions with others provides opportunities to spend time with friends or to build new relationships.

Join with friends for a little friendly competition on a shared goal. Look into local clubs, support groups or other social gatherings that pertain to your goals or resolutions.

Most importantly: Know thyself. Know what motivates you. Know what tempts you. Tailor the above tips and tricks to meet your specific needs and support your unique goal. Be specific, forgive your mistakes, and have fun tackling a new challenge in the New Year!

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