How to actually keep a New Years resolution

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It’s something many people get asked at a New Year’s party, chatting with a friend or spending time with family in late December. There always has to be some kind of response, but the truth is that not many people change their ways after a dramatic countdown and a blast of fireworks. Why do people make New Year’s resolutions?

The idea of a new year can be a catalyst for motivation – to eat better, work out more or spend more time with family. Whatever the resolution is, it’s easy to say “new year, new me,” and expect the rest to take care of itself. The truth is that nothing will change without the work it would always take, regardless of the beginning of a new orbit around the sun.

The idea of a new year can have a lasting impact on a person and allow for closure. But people who change for good continue to feed their internal motivation even after the confetti stops falling.
One way to do that is to think of the reason why change is so important. Want to be able to run a marathon alongside friends? That daily workout is the way to get there. Want to take a trip to Hawaii? Pass on that daily Starbucks latte. Eventually, the hype and glamour of change and self-improvement will die down – and that’s when most people go back to their old habits. This is the easy way out, but not the only way.

Perhaps the most common New Year’s resolution is to get in shape. There are a couple problems with this goal. What defines “in shape?” In order to achieve a goal, it has to be concrete. Get a visible six-pack, be able to bench 150 pounds, or be able to run four miles without stopping are all more specific goals that are possible to attain.

Another essential part of self-improvement is having a plan to reach specific goals. Say the goal is to be able to run a mile. The first step is to find out one’s current skill level, and take steps to get gradually closer to the goal. Taking a jog twice around the block three times a week is a great place to start. With a plan like this, the goal is concrete, and all it takes is discipline and repetition to reach it.

The same principle applies to any resolution, even if it seems vague. Being nicer to people, going on a trip or saving more money are all goals that can be reached using this same type of plan. Everything comes down to habits.

New Year’s resolutions typically dissipate because they don’t become anything more than ideas. It’s easy to declare a plan to change, but following through takes much more planning and discipline than simply bragging to a friend.

After a short time, encouragement from other people will dwindle, and has to be replaced by the individual. It can be easy to find excuses for straying from the plan, and difficult to be consistent, but keeping goals in mind can provide motivation to keep going. Sticking to the plan and achieving a goal will boost self-confidence and self-esteem which is another reason why it is important for goals to be concrete. Instead of wondering when one is finally “in shape,” the feeling of finishing that mile will provide more than enough drive to continue improving.

Despite the hype of New Year’s resolutions, the idea of a new year is positive for creating change. It’s a good time to team up with friends or family for self-improvement. Despite the challenges and pressure that trying to change might bring, the satisfaction of becoming a better, more confident person is a great way to start off a new year.

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