How to Make New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

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Better Business Bureau

New Year’s resolutions are a long-standing tradition, and millions of Americans make them each year. These resolutions represent a chance for a fresh start in the New Year. Whether you want to get rid of a bad habit, change a behavior, or reach a goal, a resolution can be a great way to start the New Year on a positive note and stay motivated.

Everyone’s personal goals and challenges differ, and a resolution could be anything from doing more kind deeds to traveling the globe. However, most people have more in common than you’d think. Nielsen studies show that common resolutions stay the same every year, and include exercising more, losing weight, saving more, getting organized and spending more time with family and friends.

Unfortunately, resolutions are notoriously difficult to maintain. Around half of Americans make pledges to better themselves every New Year, but not all succeed. Research by John Norcross of the University of Scranton has shown that although 77% of resolvers maintained their pledges for one week, that number dropped to 46% after six months and only 19% after two years.

Why are resolutions so hard to keep? Psychology Today offers a few reasons: people aren’t truly ready to change and often set unrealistic goals and expectations. Although being ready to make a change and willing to commit to a resolution varies by person and goal, anyone can improve their chances of succeeding by creating their goals through the SMART framework.

When you’re making your 2017 New Year’s resolutions, think about them in these SMART terms to maximize your odds of change:

Specific: define the goal as specifically as possible. Write out your goal with as much specific language as you can. Try to answer: who is involved, what do I want to accomplish, where will it be done, why am I doing it, which constraints will I face, and how will I accomplish it. For example, instead of setting the goal “I want to lose weight”, go for “I want to lose 15 pounds in 6 months”.

Measurable: how will you measure your goal? This will keep you accountable and give you feedback. You want to be able to track the progress of your goal. For example, if your goal is “I want to be more social”, decide whether you’ll measure it by social outings you attend, contact you have with friends or new people you meet.

Attainable: is the goal reasonable? Make sure the goal isn’t out of reach. It’s okay if it’ll be challenging to achieve, but don’t set yourself up for failure. For example, if your goal is to travel, make the resolution to “visit one new country”, not “visit every continent”.

Relevant: is the goal worthwhile, and will it help you meet your long-term goals? Your goal should be consistent with other goals in your life and help you achieve a bigger-picture goal. Your goal should be something that will make you truly happier and better in the long-run. For example, if you generally want to try to save money, spend more time with your family and focus on your career, your resolution shouldn’t be to “take a 6-month solo trip around the globe”.

Timely: your goal should include a time-limit. Be specific about when you want to complete your goal, it’ll help you establish a sense of urgency and keep you accountable. Instead of deciding that you want to “save $1,000”, decide that you’ll “save $1,000 by June 1st”.

By making specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely goals, you’re setting yourself up to succeed in reaching them – no matter what changes you’ll have to make. And that’s truly smart!