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6 tips to setting — and sticking to — your New Year's Resolutions

Posted January 04, 2021 by Stephen Cullen, M.D. and Glenna Jackson, M.D.

Coffee mug with "New Year Fresh Start" written on it

Sometimes it seems as if New Year’s Resolutions are made to be broken. As we ring in the New Year, we’re inspired and motivated to make positive changes and crush our goals: lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking and save more.
But just about the time February rolls around, life gets in the way, temptations arise, and we default to old habits.
So, what is the secret to making New Year’s Resolutions and sticking to them? The answer lies in setting goals that are easily measured, managed and achieved.
The problem isn’t so much that we aren’t capable of sticking to our resolutions, it’s that we need to do a better job of taking smaller steps to make a lasting change. Change is hard. It takes a lot of time and energy — and it won’t happen overnight. The good news is the effort you put in will pay dividends for years to come.
So, let this year be the one you finally follow through on your resolutions. Set yourself up for success by following Summa Health’s smart tips to hopefully yield better results this year and avoid resolutions falling by the wayside shortly after the ball drops.


Break up big goals into smaller steps

Making a resolution that’s too big or difficult to achieve sets you up for failure. Break down lofty resolutions into easy, more manageable steps. For each step, be sure to consider the level of commitment it will require for you to achieve and then decide whether you can match that.
For example, if you’d like to run your first 5K without walking next spring, set running goals for each week. Maybe the first two weeks, you will run one mile a day, three times a week. The next two weeks, you’ll run 1.5 miles a day, three times a week and so on until you reach 3.1 miles a day.
Setting up smaller steps helps you stay encouraged along your journey. Each time you meet a tiny goal, you have reason to celebrate.


Be specific with goals

Choose goals that can be easily tracked and measured, as opposed to value judgments. Instead of making a resolution to “eat healthier and lose weight,” make a goal to add veggies to your dinner plate each night, drink 8 glasses of water a day or to exercise 3 times a week.
Without defining specific goals and parameters, it’s difficult to follow through.


Write it down and share with others

When you write down your goals and share them with friends and loved ones, you’ll have a greater sense of accountability and a better chance of success.
So, jot down your goals on the kitchen chalkboard or use Post-It notes on your bathroom mirror. You could also write them in a journal. Journaling is a great way to reflect on your progress and recognize behavior patterns.
Then, share your experience with someone — whether it’s a big win or a setback. It makes it much easier and more fun to achieve your goals. Plus, in times of weakness, it’s best to lean on someone to keep you motivated to stay the course. Not to mention, you might just inspire a buddy to change tough habits with you.


Plan your follow-through

After the novelty and New Year inspiration wears off, making time to achieve your goal won’t be as easy. So, plan it out ahead of time; schedule it on your calendar either weekly or monthly.
If you’re trying to spend more time connecting with distance friends or family members, set up a regular time to reach out. If you’re trying to lose weight, schedule a week’s worth of workouts and the week’s dinner menu. It’s easier to achieve your goal when you schedule in the time to do so.


Reward yourself by celebrating small successes

If you focus on the endgame, it will be easy to get discouraged. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, celebrate each time you drop one or two pounds with a pat on the back, or a date night.
You could also use a journal to write down and track your successes. Seeing them on paper can help you stay motivated to keep going.


Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your goal

As the weeks and months pass by, reevaluate your goal. Now that you’re knee-deep into achieving it, you may find your original goal was unrealistic. Instead of sticking with a goal that’s unattainable, tweak it.
If running three times a week isn’t possible with busy family schedules, work and other obligations, try cutting it back to two days and walking the dog longer for the third day.
Just keep in mind, if you slip up, don’t fret. You’re certainly not alone. The majority of goal makers slip up from time to time. It doesn’t matter if you get off track, what matters most is how you handle it. Acknowledging the slip and getting right back on track is crucial to helping you succeed in the long run.
Making changes can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to your 2021 goals.


About the Author

Stephen Cullen, M.D. and Glenna Jackson, M.D.

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