As the year winds down, resolution season is firmly in place. According to a Marist poll, more than four in ten people will make a resolution for the upcoming year. But staying committed to a resolution is a challenging task: only 59 percent of folks kept their 2014 resolution.
And that’s no surprise: what seems easy and achievable on December 31st, when you’re full of optimism and good intentions, grows more challenging by the end of January, and even harder by mid-year. So if you’re making a New Year’s resolution, up your changes of success with the strategies below.
Make a Good Resolution
It all starts with your resolution: focus on making one that is both positive and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure—if you’ve never run a mile, a marathon is perhaps a bit ambitious for a yearlong goal. Instead, consider aiming for a 5K or 10K.
Avoid also “always” or “never” goals. The idea that you’ll watch no TV at all in 2015 is probably unrealistic (unless you’re putting your TV out on the curb tonight). Instead, think about resolving to watch TV only on weekends or exclusively after 10 p.m. Similarly, exercising daily, while well-intentioned, seems like a mission likely to run into snags due to headaches, important work meetings, or childcare crises.
Come Up With a Plan
Whether your resolution is to run a marathon, get a new job, or write a novel, it’s likely not something that can be done in a day—or even a month. But most likely, there’s something small you can do daily, weekly, and monthly to further your resolution.
Make your resolution in the form of SMART goals, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. For instance, if your resolution was to write a novel, you might set daily writing goals. And, rather than saying you want to go to the gym, define how often you want to go to the gym, whether it’s once or four times a week.
Track and Reward
Keeping up the momentum for a yearlong goal can be a challenge. That’s why it’s important to give yourself rewards and to track your progress.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a great tip for tracking—it’s both easy and cheap to implement. When giving advice to a young comedian, Seinfeld suggested getting a big year-at-a-glance calendar and putting it up on the wall, and marking a red X over any day that he wrote a joke, with the goal of never breaking the chain of X’s. It’s a strategy that can apply to nearly anything from working out to writing to skipping snacks at the office.
If the accomplishment, and the visual look at the accomplishment, isn’t reward enough, considering giving yourself a tangible, relevant award. For instance, if your resolution relates to running, perhaps get yourself a massage or new running gear. Writers may want to schedule a splurge-filled trip to the bookstore. Keeping your mind on this reward can help motivate on cold mornings when a run is unappealing, or on days when the words dry up.
Tell People and Get Help
Does fear of failure, worry about judgment, or shyness keep you quiet about your goals? Publicize your resolutions for a better chance at success. Telling friends, family, and coworkers about your resolution puts the pressure on. Most likely, they’ll comment if they see you sneaking out for a smoke. And, friends are also likely to encourage and support you in small and large ways.
Consider also reaching out for help or joining groups to help you accomplish your resolution. A gym membership is great if your resolution is to keep fit; a running group or class with friends may be even better.
What’s your resolution for this year? Share on Twitter, and let us know how you’re planning on keeping the resolution going throughout the year. Personally, we’ll be lighting a renewal-scented candle to feel sharp and keep our willpower going strong.