How To Make Resolutions STICK


I’ve been hearing a lot this year about people deciding against making New Years resolutions. They reason that you don’t need a new year to try something different; you can do it at any time. I can certainly see where this is coming from, but I do think there is something quite motivating about getting excited about the start of the year and making new plans along with everyone else.

I think that part of the backlash against resolutions may come from knowing that only 8% resolutions are actually kept. I’ve written about this elsewhere (read my previous post here). If you’re not going to keep your resolutions, why bother?

Very often, people make a resolution having only a rough idea of what it actually entails, and how they will achieve it. Big mistake. Like anything else, successful resolutions need a strategy. So, if you’re already swaying from your resolutions this year, or if you want to make a resolution at any other time of year, here’s my handy guide for what to do to make your resolutions STICK.

Specificity isn’t everything.

If you’re used to management speak, you’ll be familiar with SMART goals, and you’ll know that the ‘S’ stands for ‘Specific’. It makes sense. After all, if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you’re very unlikely to get there. However, I’d suggest avoiding specificity when it comes to numbers. So, for example, many people say, ‘I’d like to lose 10lbs this year’. This number may or may not be meaningless. You may have plucked it out of a hat, or it may be the amount of weight needed to get you from ‘overweight’ to ‘within range’. But either way, what happens if you are able to lose 8 or 9lbs, but don’t quite make 10? Or if your body just won’t cooperate (that’s why I don’t like weight loss goals; not everyone can achieve them)? Or if you have to take steroids for 3 months? Are you a failure? Of course not! You’ve still done the work and achieved more than a lot of people, but you might feel bad because you didn’t make your target, which was fairly arbitrary in the first place. You will be causing yourself stress for no reason, and nobody wants that.

Instead, I believe the specificity should focus on what the outcome will be, what you will be able to do, and how you will feel. For example, you might say, “I want to be within my desired weight range, because then I will be able to run up 2 flights of stairs, not feel bloated after I eat, and feel incredible in my skinny jeans”. See how much more exciting that is than a number, and how it gives you a certain amount of ‘wiggle room’ in case life gets in the way?

Triumph over objections

Does it annoy you that as soon as you resolve to do anything someone comes up with a reason that it’s a bad idea? Or, if nobody does, you do it yourself? In my opinion the number 1 reason that people don’t follow through with their resolutions in the long term is because they don’t have a strategy for overcoming objections. As soon as you want to make a dietary change, someone is bound to say, “You can’t expect people to accommodate that”, or “That’s a fad”, or “Everything in moderation…”. If you haven’t planned for this it can seriously derail you.

What you need to do to triumph over these objections and come closer to acing your goals is to make your health (or your business or your family depending on what your resolution is) your number one, unequivocal priority. That means that when an objection presents itself, you can say, “I am not going to let this objection be more important than my absolute priority, which is my health (or family or business)”. If you know what is most important to you and make that something on which you will not compromise, things will fall into place.

Implement a plan

As with everything else, planning is everything, but it’s not enough. You need to implement your plans, or they will stay on paper, and not become a positive part of your life. So, once you’ve defined your resolution and got specific about the outcome and how you will feel as a result, make a detailed plan for how you want to get there. If you want to reach a business goal, for example, what are the steps you need to take to get there? Write them down. I love pretty planners but a notebook or even your computer will do just fine. Tell someone about it who will be truly supportive. Do you need any assistance to achieve this goal? Who can provide that for you? Is there someone in your friendship circle or do you need a professional? If you’re worried about the cost of a professional, remember that nothing should get in the way of your absolute priority, and that the right assistance will be worth it in the end.

Compelling ‘Why’

Although I covered this earlier, it is worth a category of its own. If the reason for the resolution isn’t compelling enough it won’t see you through the bad times. If you can’t think of a ‘why’ that’s compelling for you, maybe the resolution you’ve chosen isn’t the right one. If you’re having trouble choosing, consider what would happen if you were granted one wish that would make the biggest positive difference to your life a year from now. Imagine in as much detail as possible what that difference would be like and build your ‘why’ around that.

Kick setbacks to the kerb

Nobody ever said life was easy. The road to achieving your resolution may be longer and harder than you think. That’s perfectly normal. The key to your success is not whether you experience setbacks, but how you deal with them.

I’m not one of those people who believes in pushing through no matter what the circumstances. Even with your number one priority, there are a few things that sometimes need to take precedence. One is your health, and another is the people dearest to you. If either of these are suffering you need to attend to them, and that might take some time. These are major setbacks and need major attention. Be kind to yourself and understand that they are not going to divert you from your number one priority for ever (unless that priority changes as a result); you’re just having to take a different route to get there.

On the other hand, there are minor setbacks. The time you had a lie-in instead of working on one of your goals. Or you lost your temper when you had resolved to be calmer in stressful situations. Or you had a slice of that incredible cake your colleague bought to work – and then another just to make sure it was really as good as you thought. Too many people make too much of these setbacks and end up thinking of themselves as someone who can’t follow through. This thinking then becomes reality. The best thing to do with a setback is to forget that it happened as soon as it did. You’ll be used to hearing people say ‘draw a line under it’, which is fine, but I think gives the setback more attention than it needs. It’s such a minor thing that it’s not even worth a line. The bigger your mind makes it, the more important it will become. Make it insignificant, and that’s what it will be. If the setback looks like becoming a habit, it needs addressing. Otherwise, don’t feed the troll.

What do you think? Are you ready for your resolutions to STICK this year? Do you have a strategy that’s worked wonders for you? Let me know.

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