Here we are!  It’s December.  The holidays are here; Thanksgiving has passed, and we are quickly approaching Christmas.  We are also approaching a new year, when people set resolutions for themselves that they hope they can keep.  This is the time of year when we see the gym at its busiest as people set resolutions of losing weight. We see proclamations all over social media of resolutions like eating healthy, getting in better shape, and saving money.  However, according to research, 80% of resolutions have already stopped being pursued by the second week of February.

So, you are thinking of setting resolutions for yourself.  How can you set New Year’s resolutions that you know you’re going to stick to?  How can you keep from becoming one of that 80% that just stops after a month and a half?  Here are five things you can do to set New Year’s resolutions that you can keep:  

1) First of all, let’s call New Year’s resolutions what they are.  They are goals. Yes, that’s right! GOALS! Let’s be clear. New Year’s resolutions are things that you want to change for yourself; however, by tradition, we wait until the New Year to begin working on these things.  Realistically, though, you can start on these resolutions – ahem, goals – anytime you want!  If you really want to make changes in your life and you want to set goals for yourself, begin considering them as goals that you can accomplish.  Seeing resolutions as goals can help you focus on achieving them. 

2) Be specific.  You’ve heard this before!  Don’t set general, vague goals that do not give you something specific to work towards.  For example, “losing weight” is not the same thing as “losing 10 pounds by June 19th.” Clearly defining a goal means that there will be a clear finish line when you get there!

3) Be realistic.  I’m sure you’ve also heard this before!  Don’t set a goal of saving $1500 by May if you know that, after paying for bills and other expenses, you won’t have $1500 to save.  The less realistic a goal is, the less likely it will be that you will reach that goal. However, just as with being specific, if you set a goal for yourself that is realistic – something that you know you can actually achieve – guess what?  You might actually achieve it!

4) Set deadlines.  This is something that I have always taught to students I have worked with.  If you really want to achieve a goal, lay out a plan for yourself to follow. A plan is like a blueprint – it outlines what you want to build, and following the blueprint allows you to actually build it.  Take your goal, and break it down into smaller, manageable pieces, or mini-goals.  Set deadlines for those mini-goals.  Doing so can help you stay on track!  

5) Get a support system.  So, you want to lose weight.  But you work in an office that has weekly potlucks.  Or your spouse insists on having dessert every night.  And you’re thinking to yourself – how in the world am I going to lose weight when I am surrounded by constant temptation?  Yes, it’s important to motivate yourself; however, how much more likely do you think you will be to succeed if you are surrounded by people who are supportive of you accomplishing your goal?  This is not to say that, once you’ve made your intentions known, your coworkers won’t support you, or that your spouse is going to keep setting a plate full of sugary sweets in front of you every night after dinner.  But your success is more likely if you communicate your goal with others, and gain their support along the way. As we know, those who truly want you to succeed will have your back. And those that don’t – well, that’s a whole other issue that we’ll talk about another time.

I hope that your biggest takeaway from all of this is that, if you really want to stick to a New Year’s resolution, don’t call it that!  It’s a goal that you want to accomplish to make positive changes in your life in some way. Once you start seeing it as something that you can truly reach, you will start to believe that you can get there, no matter what time of year it is.