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by Derek Loosvelt | January 07, 2020

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Making New Year's resolutions is easy. Keeping New Year's resolutions is hard. So here are six tips for helping you stick to what you resolved to do this year.

1. Get specific.

Specific goals are easier to stick to than vague goals. If, say, you resolved to meditate everyday before work, get specific about how long you'll meditate. Make your resolution something like: "Meditate for 10 minutes each day before work." This gives you a specific goal, as well as a start time, end time, and time restraint. Parameters like these will help you stick to your resolutions. Without restraints, you might wait till the end of the day to try to meditate, only to find yourself too tired and susceptible to putting off your meditation until the next day. Likewise, if your resolution is to take more steps during your workday, make it a certain number of steps, like 10,000. Specificity is your friend when it comes to resolutions.

2. Start small.

It's a lot easier to stick to your resolutions (for the short term and long term) if you start small and then ramp up later, as opposed to the opposite. Staying with the example above, if ideally you'd like to meditate for 10 or 15 minutes each day, think about starting out with five minutes a day. After you hit that target for a month or so, then ramp up to 10 minutes. Same goes for the walking example. Start with 5,000 or 7,500 steps a day, then increase to 10,000 after a month or two. Just doing something each day, no matter how small, will boost your will power—and you'll need to build your will power to stick to your resolutions over the long term.

3. Think near term, not long term.

It can be daunting to think about following through on a resolution forever, or even a year, or even just a month. So, think about resolutions like this: "I just have to do it this one day." That is, take your resolutions day by day. As in: "I just have to meditate this one day." Or: "I just have to get in my steps today." Don't think about tomorrow, or next week, or the next few months. Just picture yourself doing that thing today (or not doing it today, if your resolution is to quit something). And then, once you succeed, set aside thinking about your resolution until the next day. 

4. Break down big resolutions into small steps.

If your resolution is something like "I want a new job," you'll get nowhere fast until you break down your goal into several small steps. Consider that, to find a new job, you'll need to do all of the following (and more): update your resume, update your cover letters, update your LinkedIn profile, reach out to people in your network, look at job listings, research companies, apply to jobs, go on informational interviews, go on job interviews, write thank-you notes, go on more interviews, research what you should be paid for various jobs, etc.

As you can see, if you want to find a new job, you have your work cut out for you—which can easily overwhelm you if you don't break down your goal into tiny parts. But if you do that, and have patience, you'll eventually hit your goal. 

For example, if you want to find a new job, first give yourself a week to update your resume, then another week to update your cover letters, then another three weeks to reach out to 20 people in your network, etc., etc. When you break down each necessary part of the job search process, you make each part a tiny resolution. Then, later, several months later, or a year later, after following through on all of these short-term resolutions, you'll hit your long-term goal of getting a new job.

5. Replace bad habits with good ones.

If one of your resolutions is to quit a bad habit, like vaping or gossiping (speaking negatively) about other people, you'll need to fill the time you previously vaped or gossiped with something else. If you don't, you'll find yourself having a hard time quitting that bad habit. Or, you might replace your bad habit with another bad habit, without even realizing it.

So, get proactive and create a new good habit to take the place of your bad habit. For example, to help you stop vaping, try working out (running, biking, practicing yoga, etc.) first thing in the morning or during your lunch break (or whenever you typically strongly desire to engage in your bad habit). This will help you refocus your desires and reinforce why you're quitting your bad habit—which in the case of vaping would be to improve your physical health.

Likewise, if your resolution is to stop gossiping about people, resolve to compliment people. So, instead of falling back on the habit of saying something negative about people, you'll be on the lookout for times to fit in something positive to say (even if it's only silently in your head to yourself). This way, you'll be training your mind to think positively, not negatively, and thus improving your mental health.

6. Enlist the help of others.

Getting help from other people can be essential to sticking to your resolutions. And help from others comes in many forms. It could mean making the same resolution as a friend and inspiring each other to keep going and sticking with it. It could mean verbally committing yourself to a resolution—telling a friend or family member. It could also mean posting about your resolution online to your social accounts.

When other people know about your resolutions, they can offer help and encouragement and remind you what you promised to do—and why. Also, it's typically much easier to let yourself down than other people down. Which is why using this tip will go a long way toward helping you do what you promised to do.

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