7 Truths About Resolutions And How To Make Them Stick

First, you have to get honest with yourself.

happy women Chunchunie / Chun Chunie and Dean Drobot via Canva

How many New Year's resolutions did you make last year? How many of them did you keep? For many of us, that ratio is not one that we’re especially proud of.

Most resolutions don’t make it past the intention stage and of those that do, few last into February.

The reason why we’re so bad at keeping resolutions is not that we lack motivation but that we don’t take the time to plan the best way to succeed and integrate the new habit into our lives.


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If you’ve made resolutions this New Year, here are 7 truths to keep in mind for success.

1. Details matter.

When making resolutions, be specific about your goal.

For example, "Get to the gym more often" is too vague. Instead, specify how many days a week, what kind of workout you plan to do, and how long each workout should last.


2. Your goals should be moderate.

The best way to maintain motivation is to set a goal that isn’t too easy or too hard — such that it requires effort, but not so much effort as to be discouraging.

Also, try to articulate sub-goals, because reaching them will help give you a shot of satisfaction and achievement along the way.

3. You need a clear starting date.

We often don’t start our resolutions on January 1, either because we’re sleeping in or because we’re sleeping off our night out. Fair enough. But we don’t necessarily start on January 2 either, because we’re waiting for a Monday or a weekend or for the laundry to be back — or for any variety of reasons (some, but not all, of which are mere excuses).

Before we know it, it’s the middle of the month, and we’ve forgotten about the resolution altogether. So, decide the day and time you plan to start.




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4. If it's not on your calendar, you'll probably forget.

You’re probably reading this on your phone or within reach of it, so put in a reminder right now so you don’t "forget." Entering a resolution start date into our calendar and blocking out the time to engage in it is a great way to strengthen our intention.

If you don’t clear the time and space for the resolution, it’s unlikely to happen.


5. This is obviously going to be at least a little challenging — prepare for that.

If you’re making a resolution, it means the thing you're endeavoring to do isn’t happening naturally. Why not? What gets in the way? What makes you fail to follow through once you start?

Make a list of the hurdles you anticipate and figure out how to get around each of them.

6. Let someone know.

We are much more likely to follow through with decisions and resolutions if there are people to whom we’re accountable (annoying as it can be to have to account to someone — when it comes to resolutions and habit change, it’s extremely helpful).

So let people in your life know about your resolutions (as long as they’re not too private), and ask them to check in with you about how well you’re keeping them.


7. Resolutions last when they evolve into habits.

For resolutions to last, they have to become more automatic — like a habit. Most of us don’t have an internal debate about whether to brush our teeth every morning; we do it automatically because it’s an ingrained habit. For example, if you resolve to look for a new job, go over job listings while having your morning coffee.

Linking a new habit to an existing one is an easy way to jump-start it.

New Year's resolutions usually involve initiating new behaviors and creating new habits, and both those things are not easy to do. So make sure you devote the time and thought to plan out and execute your goals as best you can and give yourself a fighting chance at success.


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Guy Winch is a distinguished psychologist and acclaimed author. His work has been featured in The New York Times and Psychology Today.