As 2017 draws to a close, 2018 feels like a fresh start. It’s an opportunity to make some changes in your life. Enter, a new and better you!

For the first month.

More than 50% of people lose sight of or give up on, their resolutions by January 31. Why is that? Often, people don’t pick the right resolution. They make their resolution based on what society tells them they should be doing. Other times, they simply don’t put a plan in place to help them follow through. Lastly, they aren’t surrounded by people who support them or people who are working alongside them in the same/similar goal.

So if you’re planning on making resolutions this year, here’s how to avoid those pitfalls and give yourself the best chance for success in 2018!

1: Pick the right resolution.

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This is the first step to success. Many resolutions fall flat because they simply aren’t the right fit. There are three main ways to tell if a resolution isn’t going to work out.

  • You’re doing it because someone else told you that you should.
  • It’s very vague/there is no definable measure of success.
  • Your resolution isn’t realistic.

The journal ‘Management Review’ coined an acronym in 1981 that helps people set goals. The acronym is ‘SMART’. Setting SMART goals means that they’re specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This is an excellent tool to use when making your new years resolutions.

S – Be Specific.

Make your resolution very clear. Resolutions like “I want to save more money” or “I want to lose weight” don’t perform very well. Instead, you should make your goal something like “I will save $50 from every paycheck this year” or “I will lose 5lbs. in two months”. These types of goals are far more effective.

M – Make It Measurable.

This seems straightforward for goals like weight loss, or saving. However, some things are a little harder to measure. Maybe your resolution is to walk for 30 minutes a day, keeping track of this habit in a journal or an app designed to track habits will help you measure your progress and overall success.

A – Make It Achievable.

Making your goals achievable doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have big goals. However, if you bite off more than you can chew you’ll end up frustrated, behind or all consumed by your goal. This sets you up for failure — not only in terms of your goal but in other areas of your life as well.

For example, if your resolution is to retire in 5 years but you’re only 30 and you have nothing saved — you’re setting yourself up for a huge disappointment. Not only will your relationships suffer as you work 24/7 for 5 years straight, you’ll also find that at the end of it all it’s still not enough. It’s so important that you make sure you give yourself goals that you can actually accomplish. This is probably the most important step in making resolutions that stick.

If you find yourself with a very big goal, you could also try breaking it up into steps. This will get you closer to your end goal without consuming your entire life.

R – Is Your Goal Relevant?

Does your goal really matter to you/will it have a positive impact on your life? Are you setting your goals for the right reasons? Your “why” when making goals matters more than you think. If you set goals out of remorse, self-loathing, or fleeting passion, those goals are not likely to last. Think about it — when you make a resolution you are changing the structure of your life. If you don’t fully believe in the change you’re trying to make, the new structure of your life won’t be very strong and will easily revert to the way it was.

T – Make It Time-Bound.

This part of your resolution should be achievable too. Setting a goal to lose 10lbs in one week is not a realistic goal. Take your larger goal and break it into smaller goals along the way. Then celebrate these small wins. This way you’re building a habit, and setting yourself up for long-term success, rather than just the first few months of the year.

2. Make a plan.

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Success doesn’t happen by magic. You have to work hard, be consistent, and keep moving forward. Making a plan for success doesn’t just mean deciding what you’ll do to get to your goal, it’s also anticipating what roadblock will stand in your way. If your goal is to break a habit it can be helpful to break the habit down into three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. For example:

Bad habit: I don’t sleep enough at night.

Cue: I feel the need to relax in the evening.

Routine: I watch TV much later than I should.

Reward: I have time to veg, and I am entertained.

How to change the routine: Carve out time in your schedule for you. Instead of watching TV late at night, set time aside for yourself during the day. This might mean asking for help with your children or spending your break at work doing things you enjoy.

Breaking your habits into these stages can help you identify why you engage in that particular habit in the first place. Maybe you feel lonely, so you check facebook. The result is that you feel slightly more connected than before, the problem is this can become an addictive habit. Then, before you know it, you’re living your life on facebook instead of the real world. The cue was that you felt lonely, but a better routine would be to call someone up or talk to a co-worker.

When making your plan, allow room for slip-ups and setbacks. Nobody is perfect, and there will some days where you fall flat on your face. If that one day derails your whole goal, you’re more than likely to give up on the goal altogether. Let yourself be human. Make mistakes, and don’t berate yourself. Instead, focus on what you can do to get back on track, and all the positive steps you’ve already taken.

3. Find a community.

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You don’t necessarily have to find a special group of people. Just find one or two people, tell them what you’re doing, and ask them to hold you accountable. This way your commitment is made public, and it will be much harder to back out when things get tough.

Some goals are popular and you might be able to find support groups or online forums. Connecting with these people can inspire you and help you stay on track.

While finding people to walk alongside you is very important, it can also be equally important to reduce time spent with people who try to distract you from your goals. Friends and family are frequently our greatest source of support. However, if your resolution is to cut back on a bad behaviour and that is something you used to do with a particular friend or family member, they can take it as a rejection of them, or the way they live their life. If you find people pushing against you because you’re trying to better yourself, perhaps you can create a set script of how to respond. The key to this script is that it’s not emotional. Think of it as an announcement — “This is what’s happening. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

If you clearly stated your goals, and you are continually pressured to re-engage, it could be a sign that your relationship with that person (or group of people) is unhealthy. You should be very aware of how these relationships are affecting your life, and evaluate if you need to take action. You can find more information on unhealthy relationships here.

If you miss your goal.

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It’s OK. You’re not alone. If you attempt a resolution, and you fail, don’t freak out. The struggle is real, our bodies and minds crave instant gratification and changing your habits is HARD. So have some grace for yourself.

Start fresh.

A resolution isn’t only for the new year. It could be for a new week, or a new day. There is no right or wrong time to start trying to improve yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

When we talk to ourselves we are much harsher than we would be to anyone else. We would never say to a child trying to learn something “That’s so stupid. You’re a failure.” So why would we say that to ourselves? So flip the script.

Instead of saying “This is too hard!” Say something like “I’m going to feel so good after today.”

Instead of saying “I blew it. There’s no point in continuing.” Say something like “That was a bad decision, but a good learning opportunity! What can I do to get back on track?”

Resolutions aren’t mandatory — so make sure if you’re planning to make changes in your life, you’re doing for you! Focus on what you need to work on, how you can work on it, and surround yourself with people who will help you. This is your best chance at making a resolution that will stick, and one way you can make 2018 your best year yet!