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How to set smart and realistic resolutions

Deciding to make a positive change is always a good idea. But despite the best of intentions, change is hard, and many of us often find ourselves wondering how we’re going to keep new resolutions.

Making a resolution more actionable and achievable is key. Consider using the SMART criteria: make sure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. For example, instead of simply saying that you want to lose weight this year, you could work with your doctor to identify a healthy goal weight and resolve to lose a certain amount per week by a certain month.

If you want to set yourself up for the best chance of success, here are some additional smart tips for making sound resolutions that you can actually stick to.

1. Prioritize your goals

Before deciding what resolution you’d like to accomplish, make a list of what’s important to you, and then prioritize each goal on the list, especially if you have more than one idea. To prioritize your goals, ask yourself:

  • Which goal do I think about the most?
  • What goal would make me feel most proud?
  • How much joy would I achieve from completing it?
  • Will this make my life better in the long term?
  • How can this goal solve a problem in my life?

2. Break your resolution into small, specific steps

You’ll stand a better chance of achieving your goal or resolution by breaking it into manageable steps. Completing a step will help you feel a sense of accomplishment. For example, if your goal is to be healthier, create specific steps that will take you there, such as getting regular health screenings. If you want to be more creative or innovative, try to journal every morning. If you make your steps easily achievable, you’ll build momentum and find the encouragement you need to keep going.

3. Pick one or two resolutions

When setting resolutions, more isn’t better. Pick one or two goals that are important to you and direct your attention toward them. Maybe it’s being a better listener or learning how to apologize; if you start with one or two goals, you won’t overwhelm yourself with long lists of changes to make – you will then have a much better chance of success.

4. Build a routine

By building a routine around your resolution, you can help make it a habit. For example, if you are trying to lose 10 pounds, you might hit the gym every morning before work or eat a salad every day for lunch. If you find that your routine isn’t working for you, try switching up your plan to see if it makes a difference.

5. Enlist support

Friends and family members won’t let you off the hook if they know you’re trying to accomplish a goal. Whether it’s keeping you off your laptop or phone, or making sure you’re not drinking alcohol, accountability is one of the best ways to stick to a goal, so don’t keep your resolutions to yourself – tell those around you that you need their help.

6. Reward yourself (immediately!)

Sometimes we fail to stick to a resolution because when we pursue a long-term goal the reward is delayed. One study showed that adding an immediate reward, however, can help us out when we’re trying to stick to a goal. And it doesn’t have to be fancy. Maybe it’s a new pair of workout pants if you’re trying to lose weight; or if your goal is to boost your salary, make sure to treat yourself when you finally earn it. But remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy, either. Results from the study showed that an immediate reward might be as simple as enjoying the activity itself.

7. Download an app

Technology can go a long way in helping you achieve your goals and resolutions. In addition to enlisting support from family and friends, downloading an app can be helpful in getting you to stick to your new goals by creating reminders and productive to-do lists. Apps like HabitBull and Productive, for example, can show how well you are achieving your goals. They keep track of your tasks and allow you to swipe through once you’ve finally finished.

8. Set up helpful reminders

Life can get in the way of our best intentions. That’s why it’s important to post your plan in plain sight once you have determined your goal. Whether you decide to hang your goal on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator, the visual should include your goal and remind you why you chose it. Seeing your reminder every day will take you back to your original intention.

Remember, setting a smart and realistic resolution can help provide valuable direction in life and show you where you really want to concentrate your efforts. By implementing a few of these tips, you’ll be able to set yourself up for success and eliminate the distractions that can lead you astray.



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