7 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: How to stick to your New Year’s resolutions — 7 tips.

The new year is approaching, and that means it’s the season for resolutions. I’m part of the 45% of Americans who usually make New Year’s resolutions; I’m a big believer in the power of small changes to make us happier.

Along the way, and especially since I started my resolutions-based happiness projects, I’ve hit on some strategies for helping myself stick to resolutions. Making resolutions is fun and easy; keeping them is tough. After all, 24% of Americans fail on their resolution each year.

1. Most important: Be specific. People often make abstract resolutions: “Be more optimistic,” “Find more joy in life,” “Aim high.” Instead, look for a specific, measurable action. “Distract myself with fun music when I’m feeling gloomy,” “Watch at least one movie each week,” “Buy a plant for my desk” are resolutions that will carry you toward those abstract goals.

According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the top resolutions for 2012 included resolutions such as “Enjoy life to the fullest” and “Staying fit and healthy.” What does this mean, exactly? Monday morning, what will you do differently?

2. Write it down.

3. Review your resolution constantly. If your resolution is buzzing through your head, it’s easier to stick to it. I review my Resolutions Chart every night. (If you’d like to see a version of my Resolutions Chart, email me here.)

4. Hold yourself accountable. Accountability is the secret to sticking to resolutions. That’s why groups like AA and Weight Watchers are effective. There are many ways to hold yourself accountable; for example, I keep my Resolutions Chart. Or you might want to join or launch a Happiness Project group. You might hire a trainer or exchange daily updates with a friend. Accountability is one reason that #1 is so important. If your resolution is too vague, it’s hard to measure whether you’re keeping it. A resolution to “Eat healthier” is harder to track than “Eat salad for lunch three times a week.”

If you have an especially tough time keeping resolutions, try these strategies:

5. Consider making pleasant resolutions. We can make our lives happier in many ways. If you’ve been trying to get yourself to do something challenging, with no success, try resolving to “Go to more movies,” “Read more,” or whatever resolutions you’d find fun to keep. Seeing more movies might make it easier to keep going to the gym. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: If you want to ask a lot from yourself, it helps to give a lot to yourself.

6. Consider giving up a resolution. If you keep making and breaking a resolution, consider whether you should relinquish it entirely. Put your energy toward changes that are both realistic and helpful. Don’t let an unfulfilled resolution to lose twenty pounds or to overhaul your overgrown yard block you from making other, smaller resolutions that might give you a big happiness boost.

7. Keep your resolution every day. Weirdly, it’s often easier to do something every day (exercise, post to a blog, deal with the mail, do laundry) than every few days.

What else? What are some strategies you’ve discovered, to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions?

Top 2012 resolutions also included “Spend more time with family,” “Help others in their dreams,” and “Fall in love.” These resolutions demonstrate the importance of relationships to our happiness. If you’d like to strengthen your relationships in 2013, consider taking the 21 Day Relationship Challenge. Read about it here.

  • Valley Girl

    After reading both of your books in the time of less than a month I have decided to launch my own Happiness Project as part of my New Year’s resolutions. Last year I made a New Year’s goal since I’ve not had a stellar track record with NY’s resolutions and I was much more successful. Prior to that my husband and I would choose resolutions for one another (he asked me to pick up my dirty clothes and I asked him to keep his car free of trash). That worked well for us as we were accountable to one another and they were made for one another out of love.
    As I embark on my own Happiness Project I will (hopefully) post it to my own blog.
    Thanks so much for your words of encouragement each day!

    • gretchenrubin

      Good luck with YOUR happiness project!

  • peninith1

    Just rejoined the gym. So my ‘New Year’ starts NOW. I aim to go daily to do at least 30 minutes of cardio and 10 minutes of abdominal work and leg stretches. Minimal, but better than what I am doing now with my creaky old self. Yes, I am a fan of DAILY.

  • you made my work easy… Thank you.

  • Great post! I think it really helps to spend a while thinking about WHY you want to accomplish the things sent out in resolutions. From personal experience, I’ve found a pattern amongst those I haven’t accomplished – they haven’t been things that I, deep down, really wanted. They were to appease the needs of others, or because at the time I cared more about what those people thought rather than what I really wanted. I’m going to check out your resolutions chart post now!

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent point. So true.

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  • Deb

    I like to review last year’s first. I notice that resolutions are like flowers– there are perennial ones that relate to lifetime wishes, and annual ones that are new and will be completed in the year.

  • Julie Luong

    I haven’t made resolutions in years. I just forget about them!

    • I haven’t made resolutions either. But I have etched out goals and objectives.

  • Personally, I stopped using resolutions altogether. It has never worked for me because my intention is never clear. Losing a certain number of pounds doesn’t excite me.

    I recommend this to the people I work with. Set an intention that is quantifiable. Figure out what the purpose is so that you know your WHY. Figure out your actions steps. It’s worked for a lot of people and I thought I would share this.

    The post was good though. I definitely think some people are ambitious and have too many resolutions on their plate.

  • Lindsay Wallace

    Lanell briefly mentions this below, but I recently came across a journal article which talked about making sankalpa (or an intention) and it’s completely changed my perspective on how to go about setting resolutions. Making sankalpa is about fine tuning your desires and setting action plans in place to achieve those desires. I think what has intrigued me about making sankalpa is that it really speaks to relishing in the process and exploring your inner self rather than focusing on the succeeding or failing aspect of setting resolutions. I suppose you could say it is more flexible and I like that. I’ve written about making sankalpa and how it fits into my new year intentions here: http://gethappi.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/evolve/.

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  • Thanks for the tips. I’m still pondering how to approach 2013 – with resolutions, challenges, or a one word theme. No matter which direction I chose I will be sure to keep these in mind. I especially like the WRITE IT EACH DAY idea.


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  • swalia

    making resolutions is easy, keeping them is the hard part….thanks for sharing the tips!

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