First of all, if you've spent the last week not keeping your resolution, forget all about that. Forgive yourself and read this article to see what you can do the other 51 weeks of 2017 to keep it!
To help illustrate some of these points, I'll be using a very common example of a resolution: to exercise more. This is a vague resolution that will be difficult to keep, so I'll show you how to tweak it using these 10 points.
1. Set specific, measurable criteria.
The statement "exercise more" is incredibly vague. Technically, if you do one extra jumping jack this year, you've kept your resolution. You don't keep track of how many jumping jacks you do though, do you? "Do ____ more" or "do ____ less" is hard to keep track of, so you need to set yourself criteria/quotas. You need a specific goal. Your criteria may be to exercise at least three times a week, to exercise for 15 minutes every day or to do at least 20 pushups a day. There are plenty of goals you can set for exercising more.
2. Don't be afraid to switch quotas if one isn't working.
Realize that January will mostly comprise of learning how to keep your New Year's resolution. Maybe you've spent two days on your "do 20 pushups a day" resolution and you've realized that your arms are sore! This would be the point where many of you quit, but you can't get away that easily! Instead, you need to change your criteria, which you shouldn't be ashamed to do. Try alternating days with arm and leg exercise or try simply exercising every other day but dieting on your off-days.
Your most effective criteria depends on your personality. When I used to "write for 30 minutes a day," I found that 20 minutes of that time was spent twiddling my thumbs. As a result, I switched to "write 1 page every day," which motivated me much more. In the end, it's all a matter of your personality type, not a matter of diligence or laziness.
3. Give yourself checkpoints at shorter intervals.
At this point, you may simply be procrastinating. Even if you give yourself a tally mark every day that you miss your quota, that doesn't make your quest any more urgent. Instead, set yourself checkpoints. For example, by the end of the week you must have exercised at least six times. At the end of the month, you should have spent at least 90% of the days exercising. This gives you flexibility if you're busy at certain times and allows you to reflect on your progress. Most importantly, it gives you the urgency of an approaching deadline!
4. Never go three days or more without keeping your quota.
This is more psychological than anything else. In my personal experience, I break a habit after going three days without doing it. Addicted to a new show? Go three days without watching it and it'll be old news. Finally in the habit of exercising every day? Go three days without exercising and you'll be back to your normal, lazy self. So never go three or more days without working on your resolution, even if it's just a single minute of being engaged in the process. If you're sick and just can't exercise to fulfill your quota, just do a pushup or two in your workout clothes to keep yourself in the right mindset.
5. Make it fun.
Why would you do something the painful way when you can do it the fun way? If your resolution is to exercise, then exercise while listening to podcasts, dancing, playing sports with friends, etc. If your resolution can't possibly be fun, then try to "gameify" it. Gamification is the popular new concept of turning work into play by making real life like a video game. You add progress bars, level up, give yourself "quests," etc. Think about it: how many times have you gotten addicted to some simple little game just because it had flashy achievements and a progress bar?
6. Give yourself rewards (but only if they aren't counterproductive).
If you can't make your resolution fun or if you just need a little extra push, you can give yourself rewards, that is, if those rewards don't counteract your resolution. For instance, our example of the exercising resolution probably developed out of the desire to get rid of the Freshman 15, which requires both diet and exercise. Therefore, it doesn't really work if you reward your exercise with chocolate cake. Instead, reward yourself with something else like an hour of watching Netflix or buying yourself a gift on Amazon. Your rewards should also be earned through preset criteria. That way, you don't give yourself a reward for every single jumping jack. Instead, try something like "every minute I spend exercising, I can watch a minute of Youtube" or "if I go an entire week exercising every day, I get to buy myself a salt lamp on Amazon."
Just like with the quotas, if you find your reward no longer works for you or you found a way to cheat your own reward system, switch to a different reward! It is never too late to forgive yourself and tweak your resolution!
7. Get some accountability.
Ok, so all of that's great...if you can actually bring yourself to do it. Sometimes, you just don't feel like your resolution is that urgent. Sure, you can set weekly goals, but that doesn't mean they'll feel as urgent as a school project.
So get someone or something to hold you accountable. Give your parents or roommate a daily report of how many pushups you did today. Keep a small diary and write what you did or didn't accomplish each day. My personal favorite idea: keep a blog. With a blog, you can publish your results every week to the online community!
8. Define exemptions ahead of time.
Stuff happens. Maybe you simply got too sick to exercise or maybe you only slept 12 minutes last night. In these situations, it's easy to see that you should be giving yourself a break, but this power can be abused too easily. Your definition of being "too tired to exercise today" can quickly turn from "12 minutes of sleep" to "just feeling a little tired" very quickly. You have to define your own exemptions ahead of time. I once did this with Taekwondo: if I was well enough to go to school, I was well enough to go to Taekwondo. Or you may want to spend the night before a test studying instead of exercising, so you set "days before tests" as exemption days. There will be no changing this criteria unless you come across something really unexpected or unusual, so try to think of all the possible reasons you'll want to skip your quota ahead of time.
Unexpected circumstances often involve other people. For instance, if you're spending the night at grandma's house for her birthday, you'll be in a lot of trouble if you don't spend every minute of the day with her. If this is the case, tell yourself the day before that you'll either make it up later or lessen your quota for the day. It's important to assess these situations ahead of time because "I'll be cut off from the credit card if I don't spend time with grandma on her brithday" is different from "I hear there's a party tonight so I might not exercise today."
9. If you can't go cold-turkey, make yourself earn the exceptions.
Maybe you just don't have the endurance to exercise every day or maybe you're on a diet and simply can't go a year without eating that chocolate cake. Well, fear not! You can always allow yourself a day to take a break from your resolution as long as you earned it. If you want to skip exercise on one day, then do so, but make sure you stick to that diet of eggs and celery. Haven't eaten cake in three months and can't resist? That's fine, but be sure to run a mile when you get home.
10. Set excuses to tell others who may impede you.
It's time to remember what D.A.R.E. taught you as a kid: how to say "no." Practice explaining your resolution to people who are trying to pull you away from it. If people don't respect your resolution, make up other excuses.
It's become so common to not keep a New Year's resolution that, for many, laziness and procrastination are the first things that come to mind when they hear the phrase. However, that's not because of human nature, and it's not because of you. The problem is how you're approaching things. You don't accomplish goals if you make them too vague, but you also don't accomplish them if you have no breathing room. You're not being your own best friend here, but you're also not being your own drill instructor — you're being your own life coach.
Which reminds me, I've got a quota to map out.
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