2016 is here, and most of us are scrambling to make up a few New Year's resolutions that, frankly, we'll probably forget about in February. Here's how to create a resolution that actually sticks so you can better yourself this year. A version of this post was originally published on 29 December 2012.
10. Focus on One Resolution
One of the first mistakes people make is planning too many resolutions. The fewer things your brain has to deal with, the better, and you'll be able to focus all your motivation on one resolution, increasing the chances you'll succeed. Need ideas? Check out our top 10 easy-to-keep resolutions, or go for one of the five most popular resolutions and follow our guide to ensuring its success.
9. Get Someone to Hold You Accountable
Having an "accountability buddy" is an old, yet tried-and-true tip for sticking to your resolutions. Tell your goals to a few close family and friends who will be honest with you and keep you on the right track. Heck, if you're having trouble thinking of a good resolution, those buddies can actually help you pick one, too (since they know you best, faults and all). Don't go too overboard, though. Remember, sometimes sharing with too many people can hinder your accomplishments.
8. Set Ultra-Specific Goals
New Year's resolutions are often big and general, making them hard to attain. The more specific you can be, the easier it will be to reach that goal. "Lose weight" or "get in shape" is a bad resolution; "Lose 7kg by March" is a good one. Setting multiple specific goals throughout the year is good, too. That way, you always have something attainable to focus on that doesn't seem far off.
7. Piggyback Your Resolution with Existing Habits
If your resolution involves building small habits — like, say, flossing every day or taking daily vitamins — you can "piggyback" these habits with other, already-established ones. Stick your dental floss in your shower and floss during your shower, or put your vitamin jar inside your kitchen cupboard so you always remember to take them when you eat breakfast. The easier you can form the habit, the more likely it is to stick.
6. Give Yourself a Trial Run
Not every resolution is perfect out of the gate, so don't hold yourself to a poorly-formed goal if it just won't work. Give yourself a 30-day trial run to work out the kinks, where you can let yourself stumble a bit and tweak your goals to something better suited for success. Keep in mind that not all habits are formed in 21 days, as conventional wisdom says, so even after the trial run, give yourself time to sink into the habit before you start admitting defeat.
5. Trick Your Mind
Resolutions are hard to keep without a sense of accomplishment. Having specific, gradual goals can help, but another trick is to play some mind games with yourself. The placebo effect can be pretty useful in keeping you motivated, even if you know you're using it on yourself. Focus on anything that makes you feel like you're succeeding. If you're trying to lose weight, eating from smaller plates will make you "feel" fuller, even if you're eating the same amount of food, for example. Do whatever you need to do to trick your mind and you'll be well on your way to success.
4. Visualise the End Result
As writer Rod Ebrahimi says, "focus on the carrot, not the stick". If you're having trouble staying motivated, focus on what you'll get from your end goal — whether that's feeling better at a lower weight, being able to impress your friends with your new guitar skills, or just being able to breathe now that you've quit smoking. Staying positive seems like common sense, but it can be hard when you're in the middle of a big plateau.
3. Closely Measure Your Progress
If you've created specific goals, then getting positive reinforcement should be easy. Every time your each one of those goals — even if it's just a daily goal — mark it off on a checklist or calendar. You can even go a step further and use the "Don't Break the Chain" method of goal-setting, which is great for daily goals like "write every day" or "exercise five times a week". For other resolutions, try out one of our five favourite goal-tracking services to measure your progress.
2. Remind Yourself of Your Goals Every Day
If you're having trouble keeping your goals at the forefront of your mind, you can use one of any number of tricks to constantly remind yourself (besides tracking your progress). Set an alarm on your phone with a message of why you're doing this, record yourself on a webcam every day, or use dry erase markers to write your goals on your bathroom mirror.
1. Start Right Now
Don't wait! Whether you're reading this at the end of December or in the middle of July, start right now — even with small changes to prepare you for the big push — and you'll be one step closer to achieving your goals. There's no reason your goals need to start on January 1 - even if that's today - so call up those accountability buddies, jot down your milestones, and get started with that resolution right now.