As we all know, keeping a New Year’s resolution can be tough. Often times we valiantly declare our resolutions at the first of the year, only to sweep them under the rug a few weeks later. But why does it seem so difficult to maintain the personal promise we make to ourselves at the start of each year? Perhaps because in order to create lasting change, it’s important that we set "SMART" goals — goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Here are a few tips that might help you make your resolution stick:
Set a goal you can reach. Typically, we err by aiming to achieve unrealistic and non-specific goals that only leave us feeling disappointed and unsuccessful. Instead of vowing to "be healthier," "be better with money" or "be a kinder person," get specific about your goal, and be sure to choose something realistic and attainable. Promise yourself something concrete, and include an action word: go on a walk each day; save $25 per week; do something nice for someone at least once a day.
Make sure you can measure your progress. Part of what makes change attainable is our ability to see change taking effect. If you can’t see change taking place because it’s too hard to measure your progress, it’s easy to become discouraged. That’s why it’s important to choose a goal that includes measurable progress indicators. Improve your knowledge of current events by reading one news article each night, or cut back on sugar by eating only three pieces of candy each day.
Acknowledge that it’s okay to slip. Mistakes happen, and real, permanent change takes practice and dedication. If — or rather, when — you make a mistake, remember that you aren’t a failure; you’re human! Don’t give up. Instead remind yourself that relapses, missed days, and indulgences are often a part of the change process. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward.
Establish a timeline. As we mentioned before, a key aspect of successful change is the commitment to a concrete goal and not an abstract one. A goal without a timeline is too vague, and therefore less likely to be achieved. Whatever your resolution is, help yourself achieve it by giving yourself a window of time — whether that window closes in one day, two months, or two years is up to you. Choose a start date and a finish date and stick to it.
In addition to these tips, it doesn’t hurt to plan for success: before you start working towards achieving your resolution, plan how you will reward yourself or celebrate if your endeavors are successful. The reward can be as simple as a nice dinner out with friends or family or as extravagant as a special vacation. Either way, it will help you keep your eye on the prize. We wish you the best of luck!