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Planning is Key to Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Katherine Ryder Published: January 1, 2011 9:43 AM
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Most people have made New Year's resolutions at some point in their lives " with varying degrees of success. The secret to making " and keeping " a New Year's resolution is to start thinking about it before New Year's Eve.

Be Realistic

The surest way to fall short of your goal is for it to be unrealistic. Resolving to never eat your favorite food again is a set-up for failure. Set a goal that is attainable, such as avoiding that food more often than you do now. If your resolution is something like losing weight, do some research to see what a realistic, attainable goal would be.

Choose Wisely

Don't decide on a resolution at the last minute on New Year's Eve. It may help to make a list of possible resolutions and develop this list over time. Keep it with you and ask others to contribute ideas. You should know what your goal is well before Dec. 31 arrives.

Create a Plan

To be successful, it helps to have clear steps to put into action. Write your resolution and plan down in a notebook or journal. Decide how you will deal with the temptation to backslide. This could include calling a friend for support, taking a walk around the block or simply thinking positively. Start your plan during the first few days of January to harness your motivation. Don't expect overnight miracles. Resolutions are accomplished with a hundred tiny steps that happen throughout the year. You should think of a New Year's resolution as nothing more than a starting point and that developing positive habits will keep your plan moving forward.

Talk About It

Tell friends and family members who will be there to support your resolve to change yourself for the better. The best-case scenario is to find a friend or family member who has also made a New Year's resolution and agree to motivate each other.

Remain Flexible

Obsessing over the occasional slip won't help you achieve your goal. Do the best you can each day and keep moving forward. Expect that your plan can and will change. Sometimes even the goal itself will change. But most importantly, recognize partial successes at every step along the way. Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity, such as exercising, to become a habit, and six months for it to become part of your personality. Give it time and your new habits are sure to become second nature.

Kids Can Make New Year's Resolutions Too

For grade-school aged kids, making New Year's resolutions can be an important first lesson in goal setting. While it's never a good idea to insist that children adopt a resolution for the coming year, parents can provide both support and encouragement when kids show interest in doing so on their own or in response to resolution-making by a respected adult or parent.

The key support that kids need is in formulating a resolution that is realistic, positive and achievable. For example, if your child declares that she will make 20 new friends during the year or secure a spot on the next season of American Idol, it's definitely a good idea to step in and, while encouraging the thought behind the idea, help the child to scale back the resolution to something more manageable.

Timing is Everything

For younger children, help them choose a simple resolution that is part of daily life and within their developmental reach in the near future. For kids to feel successful, they need to experience success. So it's best to suggest a resolution that can be mastered prior to the end of an entire year. For example, young children who have recently learned to tie their own shoes can promise to make two attempts before asking a parent for help. This resolution is not only within reach, but the likelihood of master " over a few short months " is very high.

Encourage and Support

While older children can certainly tackle more complex resolutions, their success hinges on motivation. Most older kids and teenagers are far more likely to hold to their resolutions if they feel they have a shot at success and if it's something they truly want to do. New Year's isn't the time to extract big promises from children. Here again, it's far better to scale back the resolution and allow kids to experience a sense of accomplishment. This doesn't mean that the goal has to be easy. It just has to be within reach. For example, older kids and teens can resolve to eat an additional serving of fruit or vegetables every day or promise to do their regular chores without parental reminders. It's important to remember that New Year's is just one of many teachable moments throughout the year.


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