The last of the eggnog has been dutifully sipped, the cookie sheets have been tucked away, and the gift-shopping frenzy is over. Now it’s time to focus on your goals for the upcoming year. If in the past you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, only to give up on it halfway through February, it could be that the goals you’re setting are a bit too unrealistic.
To help you break the cycle this year, we asked family and life coach Sara Oliveri for tips on how to make a great New Year’s resolution and actually stick with it.
1) Be clear and specific.
Bad resolution: “I will work out more.”
Good resolution: “I will lift weights twice a week and start walking to work.”
The first one is too vague, Oliveri says. “To set more specific resolutions, you can either quantify your desired outcome or break down your goal into tasks.”
2) Make resolutions that are measurable.
Bad resolution: “I will eat healthier.”
Good resolution: I will drink more water and cut back to one soda per week.”
“To stick with a resolution, we must be able to tell if we are making progress,” Oliveri says. Goals that can be measured fail for two reasons: Either we give ourselves too much credit for sub-par performances, or we give ourselves too little credit for good performances.
3) Choose goals that are in line with your own values.
Bad resolution: “Because my girlfriend thinks I’m lazy, I will wake up earlier and exercise before work.”
Good resolution: “I’ll wake up earlier and exercise before work because it makes me feel great throughout the day.”
Your resolutions should “revolve around something that is deeply valuable to you,” Oliveri says. “When we set resolutions that are driven by our desire to please others, we are doomed to fail.”
4) Set goals that are about achieving, not avoiding.
Bad resolution: “I will stop drinking so much coffee.”
Good resolution: “If I need a kick during the day, I will drink a cup of green tea.”
Oliveri says research has proven that positive goals are more likely to stick than negative goals. “This is because achievement-focused goals inspire and energize us, while goals focused on avoiding something depress us,” she explains.
5) Don’t be afraid to learn something new.
Now is the time to step out of your comfort zone, Oliveri says. If your goal is to exercise four times a week, take a risk and enroll in a fitness class you’ve never taken before. Or if you want to improve your marriage, consult with a relationship professional.
6) Surround yourself with supporters.
Tell your family and friends about your new goals. If they’re supportive, “they will help hold you accountable,” Oliveri says. On the other hand, there are always doubters. “If they insult your progress, defend yourself, and end the conversation as soon as possible,” she advises.
Oliveri will be leading a group workshop on goal-setting and lifestyle change with Michell Stanley of Moksha Living on January 7. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.