Tag Archives: New Year

Determined to Keep Your 2016 New Year’s Resolutions? Here’s How.

I love making New Year’s resolutions. Yes, January 1 might be an arbitrary date, but I think it’s good that we all have a cue to ask ourselves, “What would I like to change about my life? How could it be better than before?”

Most of us have a list of things we’d like to do better — and very often, those things involve habits. Exercise, sleep, fun, eating, relaxing, and so on.

In my book Better Than Before, I list all twenty-one strategies that we can use to make or break the habits that shape our lives. All the strategies are powerful and effective, but some are more universal than others. Here are some of the most popular ones, to start you thinking.

1. Be specific.

Don’t resolve to “Eat more healthfully.” That’s too vague. What are you really asking of yourself? Resolve to “Eat breakfast,” “pack a lunch,” “stop eating fast food,” “cook dinner at home,” or “no more sugary soda.” That’s the Strategy of Clarity.

I did this with reading. I love to read, but I wasn’t spending enough time reading. So I resolved to “Quit reading a book I don’t like” (which changed my life), “Do ‘study’ reading on the weekend,” and I also monitor my reading — see below.

2. Monitor your resolution.

If we monitor something, we manage it much better. Just simply tracking how much you are — or aren’t — doing something will push you in the right direction. That’s the Strategy of Monitoring. With reading, I’ve started to post a photo on my Facebook page every Sunday night to show what books I’ve read that week. I find this very fun and satisfying, and I have to say, it also helps me push myself to find more time to read.

3. Figure out your Tendency.

There are Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Take the quiz here.  This is the Strategy of the Four Tendencies.

4. Give yourself external accountability. 

Now that you know your Tendency, if you’re an Obliger, to keep a resolution, give yourself external accountability. This is key. Tell other people about your resolution, work out with a trainer, take a class, do something with a friend, hire a coach.

Or start a Better Than Before Habits Group, where people hold each other accountable. Everyone can be working on different resolutions — what matters is that they’re holding each other accountable. To get the “starter kit” for people launching an accountability group, request it here. This is the Strategy of Accountability.

Note: the Strategy of Accountability can also be helpful to Upholders and Questioners — but it’s often actually counter-productive for Rebels.

5. Treat yourself!

This is the most fun way to strengthen your resolutions. When we give ourselves healthy treats, we boost our self-command — which helps us keep our resolutions. When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. But make sure they’re healthy treats. Food and drink, shopping, and screen time are often unhealthy treats. This is the Strategy of Treats.

6. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Thank you, Voltaire.  If you break your resolution today, try again tomorrow.  Try to use your slip-up as a lesson in how to do better next time. Although some people assume that strong feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true. People who feel less guilt and who show compassion toward themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel deeply guilty and full of self-blame struggle more. This is the Strategy of Safeguards.

7. Sign up for the 21 Days, 21 Strategies for Habit Change.

To thank people who pre-order the paperback of Better Than Before, I’m giving them this email package for free. Each morning for twenty-one days, I’ll send you an email that describes a different strategy that you can harness to master your habits. If you’re determined to keep a New Year’s resolution this year, I hope you’ll get lots of ideas about how to do that.

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

5 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your New Year’s Resolutions.

Tomorrow is the big day! Day #1 for New Year’s resolutions! Are you ready?

It’s fun to think about New Year’s resolutions, and I always make them (in fact, I make resolutions throughout the year). If my happiness project has convinced me of anything, it has convinced me that resolutions—made right—can make a huge difference in boosting happiness.

So how do you resolve well? This is trickier than it sounds.

Samuel Johnson, a patron saint of my happiness projects, was a chronic resolution-maker and resolution-breaker. He alluded to the importance of making the right resolutions in a prayer he wrote in 1764, when he was fifty-five years old.

“I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions, for JESUS CHRIST’S sake.”

Sound familiar? How often have you thought something along these lines, yourself? The fact that a genius like Dr. Johnson wrote this is very comforting to me.

So, how do you resolve aright, and keep your resolutions? Ask yourself these question:

1. Ask: “What would make me happier?” It might mean more of something good —more fun with friends, more time for a hobby. It might be less of something bad—less yelling at your kids, less nagging of your spouse. It might be fixing something that doesn’t feel right—more time spent volunteering, a move. Or maybe you need to get an atmosphere of growth in your life by learning something new, helping someone, or fixing something that isn’t working properly. (These questions relate to the First Splendid Truth.)

2. Ask: “What concrete action would bring change?” People often make abstract resolutions. “Be more optimistic,” “Find more joy in life,” “Enjoy now,” are hard to measure and therefore difficult to keep. Instead, look for a specific, measurable action. “Distract myself with fun music when I feel gloomy,” “Watch at least one movie each week,” “Buy a plant for my desk” are resolutions that will carry you toward those abstract goals.

3. Ask: “Am I a ‘yes’ resolver or a ‘no’ resolver?” Some people resent negative resolutions. They dislike hearing “don’t” or “stop” (even from themselves) or adding to their list of chores. If this describes you, try to find positive resolutions: “Take that dance class,” “Have lunch with a friend once a week.” Along those lines, my sister told me, “I don’t want a negative. I tell myself, ‘I’m freeing myself from French fries,’ not ‘I’m giving up French fries.'”

Or maybe you respond well to “no.” I actually do better with “no” resolutions; this may be related to the abstainer/moderator split. A lot of my resolutions are aimed at getting me to stop doing something, or to do something I don’t really want to do—such as Don’t expect gold stars. There’s no right way to make a resolution, but it’s important to know what works for you. As always, the secret is to know your own nature. (That’s the Fifth Splendid Truth.)

4. Ask: “Am I starting small enough?” Many people make super-ambitious resolutions and then drop them, feeling defeated, before January is over. Start small! We tend to over-estimate what we can do over a short time and under-estimate what we can do over a long time, if we make consistent, small steps. If you’re going to resolve to start exercising (one of the most popular resolutions), don’t resolve to go to the gym for an hour every day before work. Start by going for a ten-minute walk at lunch. The humble resolution you actually follow is more helpful than the ambitious resolution you abandon. Lower the bar!

5. Ask: “How will I hold myself accountable?” Accountability is the secret to sticking to resolutions–think AA and Weight Watchers. There are many ways to hold yourself accountable; for example, I keep my Resolutions Chart (if you’d like to see my chart, for inspiration, email me). Or you might want to join or launch a Happiness Project group, for people doing happiness projects together. Accountability is why #2 is so important. A resolution to “Eat healthier” is harder to track than “Eat salad for lunch three times a week.”

If you want to make 2013 a happier year, probably the best place to start is by working on your relationships; strong relationships are key to a happier life. If you’re intrigued, consider joining the 21 Day Relationship Challenge. Every day, for 21 days, I’ll suggest a resolution. (And don’t worry: nothing that takes a lot of time, energy, or money! Many are fun!)

Have you found any strategies or questions that have helped you successfully keep resolutions in the past? What resolution are you making?

I Was on the CBS Early Show!

I was thrilled to be on the CBS Early Show this morning to talk about one of my favorite topics: how to keep New Year’s resolutions. (Here are 13 tips for sticking to your resolutions — didn’t have time to cover all these in the interview!)

I can’t bear to watch myself on video, but it was a lot of fun to do the interview.

* Sign up for the Moment of Happiness, and each weekday morning, you’ll get a happiness quotation in your email inbox. Sign up here or email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com (don’t forget the “1”). I’m thrilled by the response to this — I started it just a few weeks ago, and almost ten thousand people have signed up already.

5 Questions To Help You Make Effective New Year’s Resolutions.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day — or List Day, or Quiz Day.
This Wednesday: Five questions to help you make effective New Year’s resolutions.

Forty-four percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and I know I always do. I’m more inclined to make resolutions than ever, in fact, because if my happiness project has convinced me of anything, it has convinced me that resolutions – made right – can make a huge difference in boosting happiness.

So how do you resolve well? This is trickier than it sounds. Here are some tips for making your resolutions as effective as possible. Remember, right now, you’re in the planning stage. Don’t feel like you have to do anything yet! Just start thinking about what would make 2011 a happier year.

1. Ask: “What would make me happier?” It might having more of something good – more fun with friends, more time for a hobby. It might be less of something bad – less yelling at your kids, less nagging of your spouse. It might be fixing something that doesn’t feel right – more time spent volunteering, more time doing something to make someone else happier. Or maybe you need to get an atmosphere of growth in your life by learning something new. (These questions relate to the First Splendid Truth.)

2. Ask: “What is a concrete action that would bring about change?” One common problem is that people make abstract resolutions, which are hard to keep. “Be more optimistic,” “Find more joy in life,” “Enjoy now,” are resolutions that are hard to measure and therefore difficult to keep. 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 lovely plant for my desk” are resolutions that will carry you toward those abstract goals.

3. Ask: “Am I a ‘yes’ resolver or a ‘no’ resolver?” Some people resent negative resolutions. They dislike hearing “don’t” or “stop” (even from themselves) or adding to their list of chores. If this describes you, try to find positive resolutions: “Take that dance class,” “Have lunch with a friend once a week.” Or maybe you respond well to “no.” I actually do better with “no” resolutions; this may be related to the abstainer/moderator split. A lot of my resolutions are aimed at getting me to stop doing something, or to do something I don’t really want to do — such as Don’t expect gold stars. There’s no right way to make a resolution, but it’s important to know what works for you. As always, the secret is to know your own nature.

4. Ask: “Am I starting small enough?” Many people make super-ambitious resolutions and then drop them, feeling defeated, before January is over. Start small! We tend to over-estimate what we can do over a short time and under-estimate what we can do over a long time, if we make consistent, small steps. If you’re going to resolve to start exercising (one of the most popular resolutions), don’t resolve to go to the gym for an hour every day before work. Start by going for a ten-minute walk at lunch or marching in place once a day during the commercial breaks in your favorite TV show. Little accomplishments provide energy for bigger challenges. Push yourself too hard and you may screech to a halt.

5. Ask: “How am I going to hold myself 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 (if you’d like to see my chart, for inspiration, email me at gretchenrubin1 [at] gmail.com–don’t forget the “1”). Accountability is why #2 is so important. If your resolution is too vague, it’s hard to measure whether you’ve been keeping it. A resolution to “Eat healthier” is harder to track than “Eat salad for lunch three times a week.”

If you want to make 2011 a happier year, please consider joining the 2011 Happiness Challenge! I’m having trouble getting the link to work properly, but I’ll get it! By officially signing up, studies show, you help yourself better stick to your resolutions. More info to come — soon, I hope.

** Update: the sign-up link is up! Sign up here for the 2011 Happiness Challenge. Studies show that taking an action, like signing up for the challenge, will help you yourself accountable. And it’s fun.

Have you found any strategies that have helped you successfully keep resolutions in the past?

* Of everything I’ve done for my happiness project, nothing has made me happier than my kidlit reading groups, where we read children’s or young-adult literature. I’m now in three of these groups, and yesterday, one of our members, Marshall Heyman, wrote about the groups in the Wall Street Journal. Fabulous!

* Want to get my free monthly newsletter? It highlights the best of the month’s material from the blog and the Facebook Page. Email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com — don’t forget the “1”. More than 50,000 people get it.

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

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 13 tips for sticking to your New Year’s resolutions.

New Year’s Eve is just a few weeks away, and that means it’s the season for resolutions. I’ve always been part of the some 44% of Americans who make (and also break) 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 project, I’ve hit on some strategies for helping myself stick to resolutions.

1. Be specific. Don’t resolve to “Make more friends” or “Strengthen friendships”; that’s too vague. To make more friends as part of my happiness project, I have several very concrete resolutions like: “Start a group,” “Say hello,” “Make plans,” “Show up,” and “No gossip.”

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.

4. Hold yourself accountable. Tell other people about your resolution, join or form a like-minded group, score yourself on a chart (my method) — whatever works for you to make yourself feel accountable for success and failure. (If you want to see my Resolutions Chart, as inspired by Benjamin Franklin, email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com.)

5. Think big. Maybe you need a big change, a big adventure – a trip to a foreign place, a break-up, a move, a new job. Let yourself imagine anything, and plan from there.

6. Think small. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that only radical change can make a difference. Just keeping your fridge cleared out could give you a real boost. Look close to home for ways to improve and grow.

7. Ask for help. Why is this so hard? But every time I ask for help, I’m amazed at how much easier my task becomes.

If you have an especially tough time keeping resolutions, if you have a pattern of making and breaking them, try these strategies:

8. Consider making only pleasant resolutions. We can make our lives happier in many ways. If you’re struggling to keep your resolutions, try resolving to “Go to more movies,” “Find more time to read,” or whatever resolutions you’d find fun to keep. Often, having more fun in our lives makes it easier to do tough things. Seeing more movies might make it easier to keep going to the gym.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Set a deadline.

12. Don’t give up if something interferes with your deadline.

13. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Thank you, Voltaire. Instead of starting your new exercise routine by training for the marathon, aim for a 20-minute walk each day. Instead of cleaning out the attic, tackle one bureau drawer. If you break your resolution today, try again tomorrow.

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

If you’re getting geared up to do some happiness resolutions next month, to make 2011 a happier year, join the 2011 Happiness Challenge! I’m still working on the sign-up page; stay tuned.

* The bluebird is a symbol of happiness, so it’s one of my auspicious symbols. A thoughtful reader sent me a link to this fabulous display of Tiffany & Co.’s holiday windows, with bluebird.

* Sign up for the Moment of Happiness, and each weekday morning, you’ll get a happiness quotation in your email inbox. Sign up here or email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com. I’ve thrilled by the response to this — I started it just a few weeks ago, and almost nine thousand people have signed up already.