29 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

2016-balloons

Got #goals? We’ve got tips to help your resolutions stick. Image by Henry Hemming via flickr Creative Commons — Attribution 2.0 Generic — CC BY 2.0.

Are you one of the 45 percent of Americans who made a New Year’s resolution? How’s it going so far? Are you one week in and going strong? Already losing steam? Haven’t even started yet? Studies say that making resolutions can make you more likely to achieve your goals. Still, the success rate, by some accounts, is only 8 percent.

Just what derails us so quickly from our goals? Because most Americans tend to make resolutions based on health and fitness and losing weight (37 and 32 percent, respectively), we turned to the elite trainers at Pulse Newport (which also operates Bellevue Barre and enERGy rowing) to find out how to stay on track – and where we fall off the wagon. Besides being some of the fittest, most motivated, and most encouraging women we know, they’re also realistic and a lot of fun.

Whether or not your hopes for yourself in 2016 revolve around fitness; are large and vague (“lose weight” anyone?) or hyper-specific (“file fingernails more often” – embarrassingly, that’s one of mine and nope, haven’t started yet); or are something totally esoteric (“play more” is the directive one friend received from her young daughter), the tips below can help set goals and win big in 2016.

1. Make your goal progress, not perfection.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – you don’t have to complete the “perfect” workout everyday. Do the best you can, according to your energy level. “Every little bit, every day, counts,” says Jacki Lane, co-founder and owner of Pulse and general badass who has about a million fitness certifications after her name.

2. Aim small.

Create small but achievable goals – say, 15 minutes on the treadmill 3 times per week. Meeting those criteria will help you feel good. “When you’re not disappointed in yourself, you’re less likely to give up,” encourages Jacki.

3. Go halfsies.

My husband always tells me that however long I think it will take to do something, I should double it. (Sadly, he knows me too well.) I’ll chalk it up to being overambitious. So when it comes to my goals, I try not to overreach reality. Jacki puts out a similar, and reasonable, challenge to her clients: “Google one of the ’30 day challenges’ that are all over the internet, and try to do just half of them.” The corporate world would say “under promise and over deliver.” You know what? It works.

4. Expect delays.

“Don’t let a bad day throw you off,” warns Barre and rowing instructor Lisa Fitzpatrick. “Mentally you have to know that one day won’t ruin anything.” Applaud yourself for getting through whatever tough thing you managed, then get back on the horse.

5. Slow down.

“Mindfulness” is a buzzword that we’ve all heard thrown around a lot lately, but the idea of being present in the moment is an idea as old as time. With an ever increasing number of distractions in our daily lives, it’s a spiritual tenet that’s also practical advice for multi-taskers everywhere. For Barre teacher Pam Clare, “slowing down and being more present on a daily basis,” has become part of her regular routine. She credits this simple act with helping her become more consistent and achieving her fitness goals.

6. Replace, don’t repent.

“It’s better to introduce something new into your life to take the place of  a bad habit than to try to use discipline to stop the bad habit,” says Pam, who’s also training to be a health and lifestyle coach. Trying to cut back on sugar? Don’t focus on elimination, which emphasizes the negative habit. Instead, work on introducing healthier sweet options, such as fresh juices and smoothies. “This has an overall positive association,” explains Pam. Don’t associate a resolution with punishment, she warns. “It’s totally NOT. It’s an act of love for yourself.”

7. Give it time.

Some research suggests that new memory patterns can be formed in just a few weeks, but clinical trials show that to really make a new habit stick, you need to keep with it for a few to several months. Whether you’re aiming to exercise, meditate, or eat clean, give yourself enough time to let the new habit become regular practice. Consistency is key, but don’t demean yourself if you don’t have a perfect track record – missing a day or two won’t derail your overall progress.

8. Take it easy.

“So many people beat themselves up over the littlest thing,” warns Pam. “Go easy on yourself.” Don’t expect to be perfect or judge yourself too harshly, she says. When things feel awry, says Pam, “just honor where you are at that moment, love yourself anyway, and get back to it.”

9. The journey is the destination.

If exercise and eating right are your goals, don’t force the Spinning and broccoli if you hate Spinning and broccoli. There’s more than one way to skin a cat – pick things you look forward to and enjoy. “Choose  things that make you feel alive and excited,” says Tessa Taub, who teaches at Bellevue Barre and specializes in fitness and health coaching. “Stop doing workouts and exercises you dread. Don’t worry what everyone else is doing – listen to  your body.”

10. Pay it forward.

Set yourself up for success by subscribing to something specific. Instead of just “joining the gym” – which doesn’t put anything specific on your schedule – pay upfront for a regular class or activity. “Sign up for something you think is a little bit pricey,” says Jacki, “and you’ll go!”

11. Lock it in.

It’s easy to put something off when you haven’t locked it in – to your mindset, your schedule, your finances, whatever. Lisa advises making concrete plans to increase your stick-to-it-iveness. “A lot of people wait till the last minute to sign up [for class workouts],” she says, “however, if you pick your week of workouts and sign up you’ll have more accountability.”

12. Lay it out.

A lot of resolutions get broken because we don’t make time for them. Admit that whatever you want to focus on is going to take up some of your precious time, and that means planning ahead. If it’s eating right, then going to the store and thinking ahead about lunch is key. If it’s painting more, then it’s making space and getting supplies. Whatever it is, setting aside time for the marginal stuff is key. “If I am teaching or taking an early class,” says Lisa, “I pick out my outfit and lay it out the night before – and pre-set the coffee to start brewing while I’m getting dressed.” Set yourself up for success by admitting that planning is part of winning.

13. Buddy up.

Accountability is a great way to stay motivated, and partnering up with a kindred spirit can help you meet your goals. Find a figurative ‘running buddy’, advises Pam.  “This could be a spiritual, clean-eating, or workout ‘running buddy’,” she says. Check in daily, exchange ideas, motivate each other, and hold one another accountable. “It will help you stick with your routine,” adds trainer Hillary Davidson, “especially on cold winter mornings!”

14. Build an army.

So you’ve found a running buddy –  yay! Now it’s time to gather more forces. Join a group or a program, bring on a coach or expert, and keep your circle growing. “It’s so important to build an army of support,” says Tessa. “Find people who can be on the journey with you.”

15. Write it down.

“Journaling doesn’t appeal to everyone,” says Pam, “but I have seen some great results. There’s something about putting [your intentions] in writing that makes committing to them more real.” For best results, she suggests taking a few minutes each morning and evening to jot thoughts about intentions, progress, or other relevant thoughts, and staying focused on positivity and gratitude.

16. Let it be known.

Whether or not long form writing’s your thing, sharing a list of your goals with others can help you stay accountable. Write down your expectations for yourself, share them with other people, and keep a list somewhere you can see it everyday, advises Tessa. It’s like a constant gentle nagging reminder to keep you on your path.

17. Start early.

Whatever you most want to accomplish, get to it as early as possible. Research shows that our willpower (yes, science says it’s a real, measurable thing) depletes throughout the day. For Lisa, that means morning workouts: “If you get it done, you don’t have time to think about it or make excuses not to go.”

18. Use your imagination.

Visualization is a technique used by elite athletes, successful businessman, and other winners worldwide. Here’s how it works: Visualize yourself at the apex of your achievement; imagine how you look, your emotions, and even what the air smells like. “Truly believe in how you will feel [upon] achieving your goals,” encourages Pam. “Feel it as if you already have it and you will attract it.”

19. Be consistent.

Make your motto “New year… same you!” says Tessa. Whatever you want to change or enhance or improve comes with “the decision you make to keep staying consistent in feeling awesome, strong, and healthy. You can do this!” Consistency is key to achievement. And yes, this is a running theme here.

20. Check in.

In the 1980s, Billy Crystal may have convinced us that it’s better to look marvelous than to feel marvelous, but in 2016 we all know that’s a sack of crap. Beauty and well-being comes from the inside first. “Make your goal about feeling good and the looking good will follow!” says Jacki. (You can still get the Botox later, okay?)

21. Choose responsibility.

Packing a little bit of extra effort into your calendar can help you keep from going overboard, whether you’re a weekend warrior or a workaholic. “I purposefully picked up a Saturday 6:45 a.m. class, even though I tend to have a lot of events that fall  on Friday  nights,” says Lisa. “It helps me to keep my drinking in moderation.”

22. Gear up.

Excited about your new workout plan, financial goal setting, or getting organized? It’s ok to support your new habit with a little retail therapy. If fun workout clothes or new office supplies get you motivated, invest in some, says Lisa. Just make sure you’re not more excited about the new gear than the new year.

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Image via Elle.

23. Ding! You’re awesome!

Any encouragement – even if it comes from Siri – is a good thing. We use our phones for everything else – why not outsource a little inspo, too? “I use my iPhone calendar to set an alarm with a reminder or positive intention so that it pops up at just the right time,” says Pam. Some of Pam’s suggested messages include “Keep at it, you’re doing a great job!” “Time to power walk!” and “Reward yourself!”

24. Celebrate small milestones.

“One of my intentions this year is  to work on self care,” says Pam, “and part of that means [giving myself] little rewards.” Whether it’s a spa service or lunch with a friend, giving yourself a little something to look forward to can have a big pay off. “We definitely don’t practice enough of this,” she cautions. “As women –  especially moms – we are constantly putting others first.”

25. Manage what you measure.

Statistics like weight and lean body mass can be useful tools for measuring improvement, but Tessa cautions against becoming obsessed with the numbers. “Ask yourself, ‘Are you feeling better? Stronger? Faster? Having fun? More energy?’ Check in with what’s working and not working. It might take time to figure that out, but stick with it,” she says. “Progress, not perfection!”

26. But also measure what you manage.

Numbers aren’t everything, but measuring what you’re trying to manage can be a good way to motivate. Hillary suggests investing in a heart rate monitor to measure your output. “If you see and feel what it took to burn calories during a workout you will definitely be more conscious of what you consume.” Big data may not have a soul, but the numbers can help you measure where you are on your path to success, regardless of your goals.

say yes quote tina fey

27. Before you say yes, just say no.

Conquering a resolution is usually going to take a little “me” time. That’s ok. Don’t let unnecessary obligations distract you from your path. It’s okay to turn down a dinner invitation, a volunteer request, or a shopping trip if it’s going to derail you from your plan. As Tessa puts it, “Stop saying yes to everyone else, and start saying yes to you!”

28. Put excuses to bed.

I can often be heard whining about making kids’ lunches or getting the laundry done, but the truth is really like…helllooo facebook. Everyone on Earth has exactly 24 hours in their day – some of us manage our time well, and some of us generate lots of excuses. Successful people make time for the things they want to do. As Tessa puts it, “Be a problem solver, not a problem seeker.”

29. You are what you eat.

Whether you’re trying to drop a few pounds or solve quantum physics equations, food is how humans fuel our bodies and brains. Eating right – whether or not it’s your end goal – is an essential part of functioning well. “Feed yourself real food,” says Tessa. “Get in your kitchen and start cooking. It’s your body; it’s your life.”

Got #goals? Let us know in the comments!

Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

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