How To Keep Your New Year's Resolutions
According to its Wikipedia definition, a New Year's resolution is "a commitment that an individual makes to a project or a habit, often a lifestyle change that is generally interpreted as advantageous." But, as we all know, and Wikipedia even notes, these many of these resolutions "go unachieved and are often broken fairly shortly after they are set."
So how do you, in good faith, make a plan for change (on New Year's or otherwise), and carry it through to completion, without letting your efforts result in just another broken resolution? I won't lie to you, it's not going to be easy. But that doesn't mean it's not possible, or even probable, if you follow a few simple guidelines in making and implementing your plan.
Choose With Care
First, in choosing a target habit or behavior to change, make sure that your resolution is one that you're absolutely ready for and committed to. Resolutions made in haste on New Year's Day, on a whim, or out of guilt are guaranteed not going to stick. Choose an achievable goal that you are serious about, and once you have, begin taking small steps toward it immediately. New Year's (or the first of a month, which is often the "deadline" people give themselves for starting a new habit or breaking an old one) is an arbitrary marker. If you are really ready to do what it is you have got your mind set on, the day, the date, and the hour don't matter. On the other hand, if you're not ready (say, to quit smoking) and you force yourself into it because of the holiday tradition or other outside pressure, you're setting yourself up for failure.
Resources For Success
Set Yourself Up For Success
Instead of making it hard for yourself, make it easy. There are no rules that say a resolution achieved in stages is less worthy than one completed all at once. In fact, changes made gradually over time are more likely to last than those done quickly and/or abruptly. There's no more shame in cutting back one cigarette a day than in quitting cold turkey-they both achieve the same end. And of course, there are some resolutions, like losing weight, that would be dangerous to rush. (A healthy, sustainable rate of weight loss is generally accepted as 2 lbs a week, yet countless programs hook dieters with the promises of how much one can lose in the first week.) Make yourself a timeline with smaller, achievable goals on the road to your larger one, and celebrate the small successes.
It's also important to ensure that you have a support system set up for yourself, especially if your resolution involves something on which you have become physically or emotionally dependent (coffee, sugar, nicotine, the ex-boyfriend, etc). Enlist a buddy to be your accountability partner, or look for a support group in your area. You may feel stupid the first time you have to call them to calm you down or lend an ear, but you will feel decidedly accomplished when you see your goal achieved, because you sought that help.
Keep On Keeping On
Lastly, keep in mind that there will be hiccups on the road to success, but that they are not apocalyptic. Smoking 8 cigarettes on a day you had planned to have cut back to 6 is not the end of the world. Eating an extra slice of apple pie is not going to kill you. Instead of seeing these setbacks as a sign of failure, concentrate on making positive change come from them. Being able to recognize one's mistakes and recover from them is one of the greatest strengths a person can ever develop, and it will stand you in good stead in the rest of your life as well. Journalling or keeping a daily diary, even if you only write for 5 minutes a day, can help to put things in perspective, and keep you motivated.
Know that the change is still achievable, and take things one day, one step at a time. This is the surest way to creating the life you want for yourself, without killing yourself doing it.
This advice is not meant to encompass resolutions involving immediately life-threatening behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse. Quite obviously, "setbacks" in these cases could be fatal, and the need for change is pressing, and the appropriate course of action is to seek a higher level of care, such as hospitalization or inpatient rehabilitation.