9 Tips to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Stick
Are you getting off to a slow start in keeping your New Year's resolutions? Although it’s nearly February already, it’s not too late to work toward your 2012 goals, whether you aim to change your lifestyle or your small-business practices.
Here are nine tips for making sure your resolutions stick.
- Be specific. Lose weight. Get back in shape. Resolutions like these are fairly ambiguous and can be too general to wrap your head around. Pick a goal that's tangible, achievable, and measurable, such as Walk for 30 minutes three times a week.
- Take things one step at a time. If you want to improve your business processes, don't overhaul the entire system at once. Instead, carefully analyze what needs to work differently. Identify potential obstacles and ways to overcome them. Develop a step-by-step plan for effecting incremental change. The same goes for smaller-scale and personal resolutions. Let’s say your New Year's resolution is to quit smoking. You can try going cold turkey, but you may be more successful by cutting back one cigarette per day until you're able to stop entirely. Baby steps will get you where you want to go.
- Change the situation and your behavior. A refrigerator stocked with deep-dish pizza and rocky road ice cream is bound to thwart your "eat healthier" resolution. Change the situation (i.e., get rid of all that junk food) and your behavior (i.e., stock up on fruits, vegetables, and other nourishing items). The same principle applies in the workplace: If you're determined to spend less time letting constant emails interrupt your work, try scheduling a specific time to handle the task — and commit to it.
- Don't make the same mistakes twice. Does it seem like you make the same resolutions year after year? This is a recipe for frustration. Try making a different resolution this time. Chances are, you'll find new energy for something you haven't tried before. If you're intent on tackling the same resolution one last time, at least consider what went wrong in the past — and how you can approach things differently this time around. A shift in your perspective could yield favorable results.
- Enlist the support of others. Resolutions rarely get fulfilled in a vacuum. People who achieve the most success in their endeavors have marshaled the emotional support of family and friends. Share your ambitious objectives with others, so that they understand why this means so much to you. Their support and suggestions will fire up your motivation throughout the year.
- If you can't find the time, make the time. Important goals often take time to accomplish. Schedule regular slots in your calendar to pursue your goal, whether it's exercising more, reading Tolstoy, or sitting quietly, away from distractions, at a local park.
- Push aside your doubts. Anyone who's ever failed to keep a resolution (isn’t that everyone on the planet?) has experienced doubt at some point. If doubt has previously killed your momentum, recognize it for what it is — and move on. You know when you're having negative thoughts about yourself. Why not ignore them for a change? Understand that doubt is part of the process — and then let it go.
- Keep a journal. With everything else that's going on, it may prove difficult to keep your resolution at the top of your mind. Instead, write it down. From time to time, record your small successes and failures, too, and why each occurred. Keeping a journal or even just a folder of your notes can strengthen your motivation in the months ahead.
- Reward yourself. If you lose five pounds in 30 days, give yourself a reward (you know, something other than a box of glazed doughnuts). Is there a movie you've wanted to see, but keep putting off? Or a small purchase that will make you happy? Congratulate yourself for achieving your goals!
Remember: Change is a process. Your resolution may take longer to achieve than you planned, but every step gets you closer to it. Any actions you take today can improve your situation tomorrow — and perhaps for the rest of your life.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.