How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution into a Change that Sticks in 2013

by Henrik Edberg

Image by ePi.Longo (license).

As the New Year is toasted in and we move in to 2013 you may have a New Year’s resolution or two that you want to make real this year.

But as we know, many resolutions don’t become more that hopeful wishes or a few weeks of effort put in during January.

How can you make it much more likely that the changes you want become habits that stick this year?

This article will explore five of the most helpful guidelines for not just wishing for a change but to make it something real in your life that you can reflect upon during the next New Year’s Eve and celebrate.

One change at a time.

I mentioned this in my last article just before the New Year but it well worth mentioning again. Maybe the most common mistake people make out of enthusiasm and overeagerness is to try to change too many things at once.

It usually becomes too much a few weeks down the line and so new goals and habits are left by the side of the road as one falls back into the old routine once again.

Be enthusiastic. But be smart too. Only focus on one habit or small change per month. Do it until it becomes the “new normal” in your life. Then add another habit or small change.

It might feel like things are going to slow, but in 12 months you may be able to add up to 12 new habits to your life if you do it in this focused and smart way.

Small step leads growth over time.

To avoid procrastination and inner resistance make things easy on yourself. Take small steps outside of your comfort zone.

Start by running for just 5 minutes. Then a week or two later, add 5 more minutes of running.

Or start working for just 5 minutes on something you have feared or been nervous about doing. Then you can go back to your regular stuff. And then come back and do 5 more minutes of work on that one thing later on that day or the day after that.

Small steps add up quickly. It is far better to have traveled quite a distance over a year by taking small steps than to feel overwhelmed by taking a first big step and procrastinating on it for 6 months or 12. It is far better than to take that big step once or twice but not being able to keep it up each week because it simply becomes too much for you.

A reminder right in front of your eyes.

It is easy to let the new habit or change slip through the cracks as everyday life interferes and before you know it a week or two has passed by without you having put in much or any work on this new part of your life.

The easiest way to remember your current habit, goal or thing you are focusing on is to write it down and to place that note where it is in front of your eyes every day.

Write it down on paper. Place that note in your workspace where you cannot avoid seeing it. Make copy of the note and put one on your beside table too so it is one of the first things you see as you wake up to a new day.

Get an accountability buddy.

It becomes a lot easier to stick with a new habit or change until it becomes a normal part of your life – and after that too – if you have someone there for support and accountability.

He or she can check up on your so that you get the exercise you made a commitment to. Or so you stay active in your dating life. Or so you don’t eat too much unhealthy food. And you in turn do the same for him or her and so you both stay on the right track.

Your accountability buddy could be a friend, a family member, someone at work or in a local club or someone you get to know online via a forum or website.

And he or she doesn’t even have to have the same exact goal as you. The important thing is that you stay accountable to each other and support, motivate and gently nudge each other back on the right track during the tough times.

Don’t beat yourself up when you slip.

You will most likely have a few bad days and stumble even if you follow the tips above. The important thing here is to not take that stumble too seriously. To not be too hard on yourself when it happens and to not keep on beating yourself up for a week.

Beating yourself up really doesn’t help because it lowers your self-esteem and makes doing whatever you want to do harder and less fun after each time you have slipped and beaten yourself up. And that could certainly lead to giving up altogether after a while.

So avoid being your own worst enemy.

Instead, after you have stumbled ask yourself what your best friend would tell you in this situation and be such a good friend to yourself too.

And learn what you can from the experience so you don’t have to repeat the same stumble too many times. Then get back on the horse again the next day. And keep going.




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{ 28 comments }

Daisa Catalina January 2, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Hi Henrik,

I like your tips for keeping on track with the New Year Resolutions.
Still, I find that most people give up once their initial enthusiasm is over. I have found a great method to get more things done than ever before, without setting Resolutions.
You can read about it here: http://www.becauseicandoit.com/why-setting-new-year-resolutions-is-a-really-bad-idea/

Ivan January 2, 2013 at 10:57 pm

It is very frustrating to try to improve in different fields and then see that you have not been able to get any advance in any of them.
I agree that it is important to define the goals, taking them slowly, and be realistic.
The principle of kai zen, starting step by step really helps.
Happy 2013 to everybody.

Maurice Askins Jr. January 2, 2013 at 11:59 pm

You made an excellent point about taking the small steps over a long period of time.
This is an excellent tactic because small actions over time is the only way to build momentum, which you need to do in order to achieve a big goal.

Trevor January 3, 2013 at 3:08 am

I think the real problem with people sticking to their New Year’s resolutions stems from the fact that most people just don’t really mean them. They may think they do, but they don’t.

Real change does not come from some ill-defined vow made while drunk on champagne. Real change comes from a place of hurt. We need a profound reason in order to make a profound change.

I recently wrote about my final New Year’s resolution . . . and why I will never make another. I doubt I’m the only one out there who has had such difficulty sticking to New Year’s resolutions.

Fortunately, we don’t need New Year’s resolutions to change ourselves. We can make deep lasting change despite what day the calender may read. The power to change comes not from some holiday tradition, it comes from inside us.

It comes from the heart.

Cheers!

Catalin January 3, 2013 at 8:14 pm

If i could only find strenght to quit smoking.

Shane McGrath January 3, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Hey Henrik,

I just want to say thanks for the great blog. I came across your blog at a real low point in my career and job, and your insights have really helped me turn things around. Now I’m moving towards a more enjoyable and effective work style. My job is tough so every tool really helps!

Especially your tip that says “write it down.” Might sound simple to some, but its really changed the way I aproach things at work and at home. I am also composing my own music now because of that tip.

Ashok January 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Hi Henrik,
This is an excellent post for being on right track. I have read your earlier post as well (the one that you have written before new year). To be honest for me, I have analyzed my last year and wrote things that happened in 2012 on paper. The result I got is really the practical one. I am really motivated. Thanks. If you could right an inspirational article on time management then it would be a welcome note for me. I need your few important tips on time management as well.

Angela January 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Thank you for your blogs, very positive. You are helping to make this a better world and I thank you for that.
keep it going

George Altman @ Mindful Matters January 5, 2013 at 1:22 am

Hendrik,
I enjoy the useful and practical information on your blog.

I like the term – habit of change – a great way to understand that we can (and are always) creating new habits – the question is how consciously are we doing it. Information from neuroscience is clearly showing that we can’t ever really extinguish a habit but can establish new ones to replace it. I’ve written about that recently and the study of habits is fascinating.

Your emphasis of one step (and small change) at a time is very important. Perhaps patience with ourselves should be the first habit we work on!

Regards,
George

Katie Cordova January 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Hi,
I write a motivating blog about fitness, health, general well-being. I wrote a blog post today about ways to help stick to your New Years resolutions! Check it out, I hope that it helps someone. Please feel free to follow me and send me comments!

http://runthroughthewind.blogspot.com/2013/01/new-year-resolution-dont-set-yourself.html

Ben January 6, 2013 at 5:30 am

Good tips Henrik. I apply this to goals in general, I don’t set new years resolutions as I always wondered why should I wait until the end of the year to set a goal. :)

I just set them whenever I want. But this article still applies in this case.

Brendan Baker January 6, 2013 at 11:41 am

You’re on the money, Henrik!

The other key one is to be realistic in your expectations. So often people set themselves resolutions or goals that are so far out of their reach for that particular year that it is actually demotivating.

When people fail to see the results as quickly as they expect, they feel ‘they can’t’ and give up.

As you say, small steps are the way and be realistic in your expectations for what’s achievable in 365 days.

Brendan

Anonymous January 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Thank you so much for this article! I too believe that setting small steps for ourselves can help us accomplish many things! I have set personal goals in my life this year, and will start with small steps! One way that I have used to help me is to write in my planner a small goal for each month. It helps to chunk as well as keep track of my progress!

Brandy January 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm

These are great tips, I personally choose not to make resolutions but rather focus on my goals in life and business. I reevaluate them through various times in the year but then at end of year I review and make new goals to ensure I keep moving forward in a positive direction both in life and business. Loved reading this. Glad I found your blog.

Wendy House January 7, 2013 at 3:52 am

Enjoyed this and found it very relevant. Thanks.

Inspiring Citizen January 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Hi Henrik,

Would wan’t to check with you whether we can achieve something without drawing a plan or taking resolutions.

I have taken a resolution this that I am not going to take any resolutions going forward. This thought has come to my mind because I have listened to the interviews of many successful people in life and they say that they don’t have any plans and they want to live in the present. Being an authority in the personal development arena I look forward for your thoughts as well as the opinion of my friends who are the frequent visitors of positivity blog.

http://www.inspiringcitizen.com/9-mistakes-that-you-should-commit-this-year-for-personal-development/

Your feedback on this article which is somewhat opposite to your thoughts would be a great learning experience for all our readers, I guess.

Julie @ MotivatePT January 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Hendrik, a very nice blog. This is a time of year I see many people making their New Year’s resolutions with a genuine belief that they will follow them. In fact, as a personal trainer, it’s my job to make sure they do.

I agree that we should try to make small attainable goals and work towards each goal using baby steps. All too often people begin with highly over-ambitious goals which, when they fail to achieve those goals, causes them to lose all interest and motivation.

Maria January 7, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Finding your blog was so refreshing. Thank you for sharing positive and practical tips that will make a difference for me in 2013. Life is a journey and whatever I can find along the way to add to my “toolkit” I gladly receive.

Be Well ~

Henrik Edberg January 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Thank you everyone for sharing your own experiences with New Year’s resolutions, for adding your insights about what works for you to make real changes and for all those kind words!

Martynas January 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I believe more in Evolutions than Resolutions. The word resolution does not seem right. It come from word resolve. We are stuck on this all the time. :)
Other than that – the post is great! thank you Henrik.

Roman Soluk January 8, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I like your tip on making one change at a time. I completely agree with it… As for me I can’t do many things at a time, at least I won’t do them affectively, so I try to make an order for everything.
Thanks for sharing this post Henrik! I liked it a lot!

Blue January 11, 2013 at 11:12 am

Great article! Everyone can relate to it in some way. My favorite point you make is that a person should write their goal down so that they won’t forget.
I also wrote a short comment on New Years on my blog:

http://mondayaftermorning.wordpress.com

This blog is about part self help, part irony, and part fun. All comments and discussions are welcome!!

Harry @ GoalsOnTrack January 12, 2013 at 3:15 am

Great advice. All very important.

What I have gradually learned over the years is that, no matter what goals you set, no matter what time of year, before you think or do anything about the goals, first build yourself a habit of not giving up too quickly and easily.

This weakness in character will greatly limit the amount and height of goals you will ultimately accomplish in life. If you study enough number of people who had any success in life, a common character trait is they all tend not to give up and quit at first few tries. None of the goals are going to be much worthwhile if you can reach them without overcoming at least a few obstacles and failures.

Anonymous January 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm

And another thing,
I think it is really important that you consider the mindset you have for creating permanent change with your New Year’s resolutions. If you are attempting to create a new habit with an attitude that leaves room for negative thoughts, chances are you will not achieve what you set out to do. It is important that our resolutions present change through positive statements. Read about it on my blog, http://www.theverybestme.wordpress.com

Dr. Christi Hegstad January 16, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Excellent article! A professional success group I facilitate has focused quite a bit on your 2nd point, small steps over time, which can sometimes prove challenging when you don’t see results right away. One way to remedy that (which can link directly to your 3rd point!) is to create a tracking chart so you visually see your success building over time. Watching the check marks (or, in my case, foil stars) adding up can be motivating! :-) Thank you for the tips!

Paul Akpomukai January 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm

We become what we think about, that is the one thing that all of the greatest leaders in the world, since the dawn of time have not disagreed on, guess why…

Jaime January 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I think my favorite two tips are one change at a time and don’t beat yourself up when you slip. I think these two go hand-in-hand. We sometimes expect ourselves to make a goal and achieve it right away, and then when the change seems to be taking too long we beat ourselves up about it. I think it is important to take a step back and evaluate every change. We need to be our own motivators. Look for the positive, and know that you are putting in all the effort you can and that you are doing your best.

K January 31, 2013 at 1:35 am

Great stuff this article is similar to another article I saw on achieving new years resolutions the link is http://www.feelingsuccess.com/welcome-to-2013/ they state that 80 something % of people don’t achieve their resolution because of similar reasons you’ve stated, making those resolutions a habit. Why do you believe that percentage is so high?

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