Five tips to help you stick to your New Year's resolution

It’s a New Year, and chances are you, along with millions of others, have made a New Year’s resolution. Choosing a New Year’s resolution is the easy part. The hard part is sticking to that resolution. Here are 5 simple tips to help you successfully stick to your resolution.

  1. Be realistic. Choose a resolution that is achievable. For example, if your resolution is to “read more books before going to bed,” begin with the aim to read at least 10 pages a night, 3 nights a week, for at least 2 weeks out of the month. Once you accomplish this goal, then bump up the number of pages you plan to read, the number of nights you read, and/or the number of weeks out of the month that you read. If you set the bar too high or too low, know that your resolution can be adjusted to fit your reality.
  2. Make a specific plan. Write out your resolution and exactly how you will carry it out. Think of it as a contract with yourself. Include your specific resolution in your contract. For example, “I want to read at least 10 pages a night, 3 nights a week, for at least 2 weeks out of the month." Also include when or how you will work on this resolution [e.g., what days of the week you will read, which book(s) you will read, etc.], how you will keep track of your progress, and how you will reward and reinforce yourself. Feel free to add anything else that you feel will help you keep on track. This is your resolution and should be tailored to you and your life. Just remember, the more specific your plan is, the more clearly your resolution will be thought out. This clarity will help you be more successful in sticking to your resolution.
  3. Reward yourself. Track your progress as outlined in your contract and decide on how you will reward yourself for reaching milestones on your way to accomplishing your resolution. For example, if your resolution is "to read at least 10 pages of a book per night, 3 nights a week, for at least 2 weeks out of the month," reward yourself with a new pair of shoes for each month you reach your goal. These rewards will keep you motivated to keep working on your resolution. You may find that the accomplishment of the resolution is a big enough reward to keep you motivated and that you don't need to add any additional rewards for yourself.
  4. Bring in reinforcements. Find others who share the same resolution as you and work together (e.g., join a book club), practice positive thinking and self-talk, remind yourself why you chose your resolution in the first place, and tell others about your resolution. Research shows that these actions will motivate you and hold you accountable to your plan, thus helping you stick to your resolution.
  5. Don’t give up. If you get off track, don’t think that you can’t get back on. Try to reflect on what got you off track and then if needed, adjust your resolution accordingly  For example, was your resolution too daunting with having to read 10 pages, 3 nights a week? Adjust it so it is easier to obtain and then go from there; for example, starting with 10 pages, 1 night a week. Remember even small successes can be extremely rewarding.

Happy New Year!