It's that time of year when people everywhere take stock of their lives, ruminate on the things they'd like to change and resolve to improve themselves in the coming year. If you've ever made New Year's resolutions, you know how hard it is to stay committed to making a change, especially as the excitement of the new year passes. Here are some practical tips to help you decide which resolutions are worth making, and how to stay true to your goals!

Don't Revisit Old New Year's Resolutions

New Year's ResolutionsAttempting to repeat old New Year's resolutions that never panned out will just set you up for failure; the memory of last year's cop out will lurk in the back of your mind, putting you one step behind from the get-go. Starting with a brand new resolution or goal will renew your drive and bolster your confidence that you'll be able to meet your goal in the year to come. If a previous resolution is still important to you, try refreshing it by re-wording it or changing it slightly to give you a fresh start. Also, reflecting on what worked and what didn't work in the past can help you become successful in attaining a previously-failed goal. This year, resolve to try a different approach for different results!

Be Realistic

Detailed, specific goals are more easily attained, not to mention more realistic, than vague, broad-reaching dreams. Instead of vowing to "lose weight" or "get healthy" in the new year, be more specific and come up with a certain number of pounds you want to lose, or outline the exact steps you are going to take to improve your health. Make sure you set your sights on an end result that's attainable and not too extreme; setting the bar too high makes it more likely you'll fall short of your goal. Having a concrete goal also makes it easier to put steps in place for accomplishing the goal in the year to come.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Instead of coming up with a list of New Year's resolutions, pick one or two goals that are most important to you, and focus on tackling those in the new year. If you have too many goals, it's difficult to figure out where to begin, and it takes a lot more of your energy than tackling just one goal. Additionally, making the lifestyle changes needed to achieve your goal will be easier if it involves changing only a few specific behaviors, as opposed to relearning a multitude of behaviors that will affect every aspect of your life at once.  

Get Ahead of the Game

When it comes to successfully achieving your New Year's resolutions, planning is everything! Having a plan involves breaking your goal down into achievable steps and creating milestones that are more attainable than one large intimidating goal. It's hard to change ingrained behavior; making a plan and taking baby steps helps make achieving your general goal more realistic and also ensures you'll stick to it when the going gets tough. Start thinking about your goal well before January 1 and write down the steps you will need to take to achieve the goal. Make a list of anything that might hinder you, and come up with solutions ahead of time so you know what to do when you encounter these obstacles. Work on accomplishing each step one by one, and before you know it you will have made great strides towards reaching your ultimate goal!

Be Easy on Yourself

Don't beat yourself up if you feel you aren't making immediate progress. It's important to remember that it probably took months, and maybe even years, to get to the state you are in and develop the habits and behaviors that got you there. Realize that it might take a while to reach your goal, and include realistic timelines in your planning stage. It's more important to succeed at each baby step along the way and be consistent in slowly changing your behavior than to try to reach your ultimate goal too quickly, risking ephemeral and fleeting success. If you find yourself getting off track, don't give up! Figure out what caused your slip-up and how you can react more appropriately moving forward. Reward yourself for the things you have accomplished so far, even the small victories, without dwelling on the perceived failures. Use your mistakes to recommit to your overall goal and resolve to do better moving forward.

Don't Give Up

Even if you encounter setbacks that make you fear you're failing, or feel it's taking too long to reach your goal, don't give up! It takes at least three weeks for new behaviors to become habits, and even longer for new habits to become a regular part of your life. If you feel your efforts are flagging, don't quit. If necessary, start over at the beginning. It's better to lose just a few months or weeks of progress than to go all the way to the end of the year before trying again. Celebrate your triumphs and don't dwell on your failures to get back on track more quickly. Reward yourself as an incentive to stay motivated, and develop a support system to help keep you thinking positively. This can include family, friends, or even positive affirmations you repeat to yourself each day.

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