The New Year is a time for welcoming change. It has come and gone again, but have your resolutions come and already gone too? It’s a time for new beginnings and a time of hope for people the world over. It signifies the saying: “out with the old, in with the new” and is often the best time to make changes in every area of your life.

You probably made at least one New Year’s resolution, and if you’re like me, you’ve made (and broken) many of them over the years. This year, I’ve decided to try something new: make and actually keep my New Year’s resolution, and I’m going to share the steps on how you can do it too.

You Gotta Want it!

The first step toward making any change is simply to want to change. This might seem pretty obvious, but it isn’t Wanting to make a change is not like wanting to win the lottery or play in the Superbowl. Those are things a great many people would certainly welcome, but for a variety of reasons, few actually believe are possible.

In order to make changes, you need to have not only the desire to see something different in your life, but the willingness to take the necessary steps to see it happen. When thinking about goals and resolutions, keep in mind that the change you want to work toward needs to be something that’s actually attainable.

The difference between goals and resolutions is this: resolutions are things you’d like to do over, or do differently. Goals are desires you’d like to attain. When setting attainable goals it’s important to be realistic. This doesn’t mean not to believe in yourself or shoot for the moon. It just means that you should consider the size of the step you plan to take to make things happen.

Be Specific

The very first thing to do to help guarantee you keep your New Year’s resolution is to be clear and specific in what you’re setting out to do. If you want to lose weight, set a specific number of pounds you’d like to lose, or the number of sizes you’d like to reduce by. If you resolve to drink less, swear less, or get a new job, be specific with those as well.

How many drinks do you want to limit yourself to each week? What kind of job are you looking for? Is it just a new company you’re looking for or is it an entire career change?

No matter what you decide, being specific about your goal or resolution is guaranteed to heighten your motivation toward reaching it. After all, how can you work toward where you want to be if you don’t really even know where that is?

Start with Small Steps

Aside from making an ambiguous, general resolution; over-reaching is a sure-fire way to see your resolution abandoned before the month of January is even complete. If you haven’t exercised since high school gym class, then making a resolution to compete in a decathlon by summer is probably a bit too much to handle right now. You’ll sabotage your motivation and limit your successes.

Small successes are inspirational and will keep you moving forward. Choose small, more specific goals that will give you a clear picture not only of what you want to accomplish, but also set a series of steps that need to be taken to in order to get there. Celebrating a multitude of small successes is much more gratifying than striving for a single success off in the distance. Rather than training for a decathlon right away, try working on your long-term cardiovascular endurance by jogging every day.

Decathletes require quite a bit of strength and endurance in order to compete at their sport, let alone complete it, and the foundation for all of that is to get your cardiovascular health to a level by which you can successfully train. Again set a series of achievable goals and pat yourself on the back when you make them happen.

Be Realistic

A lot of us have pretty lofty dreams and aspirations -and that’s great- but if you want to keep your New Year’s resolutions, you need to set a goal that is reasonable and reachable within one year. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, determine a specific number of pounds you’d like to lose. For starters,10-15 lbs is doable for the majority of people. Those who work extremely hard can lose it in a month, while those who prefer to take a more laid back approach can slowly move toward their goal without changing their lives too much.

If your goal is to do something a little more life-changing that simply losing a few pounds, divide into sub-goals and set the first one or two as New Year’s resolutions. If your goal is career change, you may need to look into education or job training. If that is the case, then your New Year’s resolution for this year might be simply to begin acquiring the skills necessary in order to get the career you want.

Break It Down

Once you have set a realistic goal, the next step is to break it down further into smaller, easily doable points. This process will be easier for some resolutions than it will for others, though. Let’s take the resolution for a career change for example. Whenever you look for a job, employers will want to see what sort of related experience you have, and/or what type of certifications or degrees you possess in the area of expertise.

If you have no experience in your soon-to-be new career, then you’re going to need some. Begin by looking online at various colleges and vocational schools and see which of them have what you’re looking for. Nowadays, many schools have certificate programs and even some degrees that can be completed online in less time than it would take at a traditional college or university.

For my weight loss resolution, the breaking down process is a little more involved. My goal is to lose 25 lbs by summer. So my first step is to break down the total weight I want to lose into smaller parts. 25 divided by 6 is 4.16. This means that I will need to lose about 4lbs per month in order to meet my goal of 25lbs before summer.

I can break it down even further and see that I will need to lose 1lb per week in order to meet my goal of 4lbs per month. So, how do I meet my goal of losing 1lb per week? I institute a program of diet and exercise that will decrease my total caloric intake while increasing my total metabolic output, hopefully resulting in a loss of body fat.

Expect Obstacles

It was Robert Burns who said in his poem To A Mouse: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” Nowhere is this truer than when acting on a plan for your New Year’s resolution. There will be days that you’ll want to relax, as opposed to exercise, after a long day at work. Perhaps a spate of birthday parties or get-togethers has you drinking more than you’d like, with your New Year’s resolution hanging perilously in the balance.

Whatever the case may be, it is important to know that these things can and will come up along the way. Setbacks and obstacles shouldn’t get you down. If you know you’re heading into a particularly stressful work week, you can opt to wake up 15-30 minutes earlier and workout before you got to work as opposed to getting your exercise in at the end of your work day.

You may decide to alter your diet so that you’ll end up eating fewer calories during the day to make up for performing less exercise. No matter what life throws at you, if you’re clear and specific, there’s going to be a way to come through it with your New Year’s resolution intact.

Two Heads Are Better Than One

A great way to stay focused and keep your resolution is to set similar goals to a friend or family member and plan to work together. Accountability goes a long way! Make your game plan together and make it a point to meet or call each other at least once a week with the expressed purpose of discussing your resolutions.

You can share your triumphs and get valuable motivation from each other if you find yourselves wavering. Another side of that coin is to buddy up with someone who already lives the lifestyle you’re striving for. In the case of weight loss, enlist the help of a friend who frequents the gym and ask to go with them.

They’d probably like the company and having another person to hold you accountable at the gym will go a long way to helping you stick with your goal and see it through.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

A common New Year’s resolution along with weight loss is quitting smoking. Quitting smoking is rough, and there will be times that you’re going to struggle with it. Instead of trying to go “cold turkey” from the get-go, why not try minimizing your habit first? If you smoke a pack a day, try limiting to one pack every other day.

Most people who smoke don’t necessarily need a cigarette every time they light up, it just becomes habit. By consciously smoking less, you’ll begin to break that habit and smoke only when you really need one. You’ll also cut your cigarette expenses in half. Those can be considerable.

Depending on where you live, cigarettes can cost anywhere from $5 to as much as $18. A habit of smoking one pack a day means that, on average in the US, a person will spend about $8 a day, or $240 a month on cigarettes. Cutting your habit in half means that you’ll have an extra $120 or so every month that you can either save or spend on other things. Remember to reward your success!

As you continue to smoke less, you’ll save even more. Focus on what you could be doing with that extra money every month that you’re currently quite literally lighting on fire.

$240 is almost a full car payment, and would go a long way toward paying off any debt that you may have. When things get rough, focusing on the positives at the end of your journey can be a powerful motivator.

Following the tips above will go a long way toward helping guarantee your New Year’s resolution doesn’t fail… At the end of the day, you don’t need to wait until a New Year comes around to make a change in your life.

All it takes is desire, discipline and a proper plan of action to ensure that the goals you set will be reached, if not exceeded, by the date planned.

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