Read This Before You Make New Year’s Resolutions

Research shows that about half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions but the vast majority don’t keep them for long. In fact, more than 1/3 of all respondents to a recent online poll did not even begin to keep their resolutions before breaking them. But in making a resolution and putting your plan into words, whether on paper or simply spoken aloud, can be very beneficial to actually keeping them throughout the year.  Those who make resolutions are ten times more likely to achieve their goals.

Most people fail at their resolutions because they make unrealistic goals. Using tools listed below from cognitive behavioral therapy and behavior modification, you can make achievable goals and stick to them all year long.

Make small, manageable goals. If you have a history of failing to meet goals, you start to think of yourself as someone who does not keep her word to herself, which erodes self esteem. In order to rebuild self-esteem and have faith in yourself again, it is important to develop a pattern of meeting your goals. Instead of making a promise to go to the gym every day, for example, make a promise to go for a 20 minute walk once a week. Once you have the experience of success, you can add another small and manageable goal to your list.

Focus on the process instead of the outcome. You can’t control whether or not an employer hires you, but you can control what action you take that might lead to that new job. Instead of making a resolution to get a job, make one to send out three resumes a day. Give goals that are both achievable and controllable.

Change your motivation. Try looking at it from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on what you are “supposed to do,” focus on how long you want to live. I have always struggled to get myself to floss but as soon as my dental hygienist explained to me that people who floss live seven years longer, on average, I found myself flossing daily. Find new motivation when the old one has not worked.

Get all kind of support. Whether you join a 12-step group, start working with a therapist, make a plan to start exercising with a friend or join an investing club to meet financial goals, working with others and being accountable helps people accomplish their goals. One study of marathoners who trained with running buddies found that everyone who trained with a “buddy” met their running goals. Find other people you can buddy up with for other goals.

Take it one day at a time. When setting a big, long-term goal it is important to take it “one day at a time.” Getting through a week without smoking, for example, may be too overwhelming to face. Instead make a commitment to get through that day without smoking. Sometimes even that may be too much and you may need to take your resolutions one  hour at a time.

Be prepared for setbacks. Black and white thinking will get you into a lot of trouble. If you make a goal not to binge eat and then you have a “slip” and are not prepared, you are more likely to continue the bingeing. Instead, look at the slip as part of your process of ending the behavior. In AA they say  “progress, not perfection.”