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New Year Resolutions: Why They Fail and How You Can Succeed

The New Year is a great time to take inventory, set goals, and take charge of your life. But if you’re like most, making resolutions is much easier than keeping them. Rather than focus on the idea of a new beginning, which can lead to disappointment at the first slip, keep in mind that self-improvement is an ongoing endeavor. Setbacks are not failure; they bring wisdom and insight for future success.

Before making a split decision on this year’s resolutions, make a list of goals and changes you’d like to make. Then review your list, and cross off any you don’t feel genuinely devoted to.

Maybe you want to resolve to spend more time with your family, quit smoking, or lose weight. You’re more likely to succeed if you feel a strong personal commitment rather than ‘I should.’

One reason people don’t keep resolutions they make is the resolutions are often made to silence the pestering of a loved one. If you decide to quit smoking to get your husband off your back, you’re less likely to succeed. If you choose to quit smoking to feel healthier and be able to enjoy physical activity without being winded, you’re more likely to experience success.

Choose one or perhaps two of the resolutions on your list that you feel most committed to. Then choose one or two you feel confident you can do with ease. These last couple can be used as positive reinforcement for the more challenging first choices.

Next, make a clear plan for adhering to your resolutions. Put each resolution in writing, and write down the steps to achieve them. Let’s say your resolution requires a routine or schedule such as an exercise routine, a new diet, or steps toward completing your education. Create a goal chart, a detailed plan, and a checklist to track your progress.

Also, post notes in strategic places such as the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or steering wheel as reminders of your resolutions with tips on how to overcome temptation.

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” — Melody Beattie

Make sure your family understands the importance of your resolutions. Family support and their positive reinforcement can be most helpful. If your resolution is something your family has been nagging you about, ask for their encouragement. But explain that pressure and pestering, particularly during setbacks, could undermine your resolve. Determine how each family member can help you to achieve your goal perhaps by taking on additional household chores or through affirmations of your continued success.

Adjust your environment to enable success. If eating healthier is your goal, don’t fill the cupboards with junk food for other family members. Find healthy snacks they’re willing to substitute. If you’re trying to quit smoking, avoid people, places, and things that remind or tempt you, at least until you have it well under control.

Don’t go it alone. If you have a friend with a similar resolution, make a pact. Work together to create a plan, and then make a point to check in with each other regularly for encouragement, praise, and support. If you resolve to get more exercise, do it together. Having a commitment and someone to accompany you will go a long way in helping you succeed.

Finally, reward yourself, not just once you’ve achieved your goal, but periodically for your success so far. Small, periodic rewards can be motivation enough to keep you strong when you’re ready to throw in the towel.

Remember, whatever New Year resolutions you choose, success awaits you if you resolve never to give up trying.

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