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Four tips for making effective New Year’s resolutions

Darren Sharp | Fulcrum Staff

Photo by Justin Labelle

IF THE MAYAN calendar is to be believed, January 2013 is by no means a sure thing—but we’re going to make New Year’s resolutions anyway. We’ve all exclaimed aloud on January 1st that this is the year we’ll start going to the gym, only to realize come February that our brand new Lululemon gear is crumpled in the corner of our bedroom floor, the tags still on.

In order to make the most out of your resolutions this year, read the four tips we’ve compiled for making life changes that stick.

Pick just one
It’s nearly impossible to revolutionize your whole lifestyle in one fell swoop. Altering aspects of yourself takes time, so when making your resolutions, only pick one change you’re confident you can make and go for it. Choosing more than one means you’re far more likely to fail, and even a single slip-up can spell disaster for a resolutioner.

“Think about it,” Esther Crain wrote for Cosmopolitan. “Can you really put in extra hours at the office in hopes of getting promoted while also giving up caffeine? Not likely.”

If your goal is to quit smoking, don’t try to drop three dress sizes at the same time. Be the tortoise, not the hare.

Be specific and reasonable
Goals are easier to reach when they’re clearly outlined. If a resolution is broad, it means there’s more room for screw-ups.

“‘Be more optimistic,’ ‘Find more joy in life,’ ‘Enjoy now,’ are resolutions that are hard to measure and therefore difficult to keep,” wrote Gretchen Rubin, author of the international bestseller The Happiness Project, for Forbes. “Instead, look for a specific, measurable action.”

Rather than saying your goal is to make better use of the gym, say that you want to lose 10 pounds or that you want to add 10 pounds of muscle. Using specifics gives you a clearer target to shoot for, which in turn makes it easier to hit. Don’t make those numbers too crazy, though; you’ll keep up with your resolution better if the goal is manageable, say losing five pounds instead of 50.

Don’t do it alone
Chances are if you’re really into making New Year’s resolutions, it’s because you’re not a great self-motivator and you need that extra push to adjust your lifestyle. This is why sharing your resolutions with friends is so effective; your pals are people who can help keep you accountable if these are changes you’re serious about making.

“Some resolutions are better achieved by including others,” Gary Belsky and Tom Gilovich wrote for Time magazine. “Say, having a friend safeguard your credit cards, with instructions to let you use them only in prescribed circumstances; or by agreeing with a buddy to work out three times a week, regardless of the previous night’s late partying.”


Remember that you’re allowed to fail
Even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not hitting the gym all six days a week like you promised yourself; instead be realistic and commit to only three sessions a week, and sweat it out a little harder and faster the next time you go.