Show of hands: how many of you have been making the same New Year's resolution year after year? "This year I'm going to lose weight," you say. "This year I'm going to get my finances under control." Whatever your resolution, chances are, if you've failed it's because of one of these ten reasons.
1. You're not specific. "I'm going to lose weight" doesn't give you a specific target. "I'm going to lose 15 pounds" is specific and gives you a destination to aim for.
2. You don't have a plan. You'll never reach your destination if you don't map out a route. Try "I'm going to lose 15 pounds by cutting calories and increasing my exercise."
3. You don't have a timeline. The specifics of your plan should include specific mile markers, especially if you're trying to tackle a big goal. Try "I'm going to lose 15 pounds by May 1 by cutting 300 calories per day from my diet and adding enough exercise to burn another 200 calories per day."
4. You don't have support. Making lifestyle changes isn't easy, and it helps to have supporters. Tell your family or friends what you've resolved to do, and ask them to help keep you on track by checking your progress and cheering you on. You may lose resolve, but your supporters can keep you going. If your resolution requires it, consider hiring a personal trainer, a registered dietician or a financial planner to help you develop the skills you need to get to your goal.
5. You have too many resolutions. Even if your resolutions seem simple, like remembering to put the cap back on the toothpaste, too many resolutions will quickly derail you. It takes substantial effort to undo a habit--even a small one--so give yourself a fighting chance by taking on only one or two significant changes at a time. If you have more than a couple of changes you want to make, start a tradition of St. Patrick's Day Resolutions or 4th of July Resolutions.
6. Your goal isn't realistic. "I'm going to lose 15 pounds by May 1" is realistic; "I'm going to lose 15 pounds by the end of January" probably isn't realistic. Before you make a resolution, do some research to see what a realistic goal would be. A realistic goal gives you a fighting chance of being successful.
7. You're doing it for the wrong reasons. Is your resolution something you really want, or is it something you think you're supposed to do? If the reason for your resolve is outside pressure, you're almost certain to fail. But if your reason is a deep, inner passion that's meaningful to you, you have a chance at success.
8. You're telling the wrong story. When you think and talk about your resolution, be sure to frame it in terms of what you want, not what you should do. "I want to become my healthiest, most energetic self by losing the 15 pounds that have been holding me back" is better than "I should lose 15 pounds so I won't look fat at my daughter's wedding." Use the power of language to make your resolution a positive goal rather than a punishment.
9. You forget to celebrate your successes. Give yourself credit for reaching some of the interim milestones. Don't go out and have burgers and fries to celebrate the first 10 pounds, but do treat yourself to a massage or a new skirt in a smaller size. And if you fall a little short of your goal, give yourself credit for what you achieved and use it as proof that you can continue to work toward your goal.
10. You focus on your failings. Thoughts like "I always overeat on the weekends," and "I can never resist pizza" keep you trapped in a cycle of failure. To break out of the cycle, leverage your strengths from other areas of your life. Try using the discipline and creativity that work for you in your job or your hobbies to solve the problem you've identified in your resolution. Use your strengths to your advantage, and forgive yourself for occasional failings.
How do you keep your New Year's resolutions on track? Share your success stories in the comments so we can all learn from them!
(photo credit: dullhunk)