As the year winds down, nearly half of Americans will be making New Year's resolutions, determined to do things better in 2011. If history is any guide, most resolutions will involve losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking. But one-quarter of us will throw up our hands after the first week. A third will throw in the towel by Valentine's Day, and by summer only about 46 percent will still be trying to make their resolutions stick. How can you avoid being among those who fail to keep their New Year's resolutions? Here are five tricks:
1. Be specific
People who set explicit New Year's resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than people who make more general resolutions, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. A resolution such as "get fit" or "save more money" is "doomed because it is too vague to be actionable," says Jenna Goudreau in Forbes. Instead, vow to go to the gym three specific days a week, or, rather than swearing off restaurant meals altogether, commit to bring lunch from home, but schedule one day a week when you'll go out for lunch.
2. Aim low
"If you've been less than successful with your past resolutions," says Melissa L.R. Handa in AnnArbor.com, "maybe this year you should set your sites to a more obtainable goal." For example, you might resolve to read more in 2011, or promise yourself you'll get through "War in Peace," the Bible, "Ulysses," or some other volume you've always meant to read. It's easy enough to do; it's fun; it's good for you. And once you prove to yourself you can do it, you can always set tougher goals next year.
3. Do not break the bank
Truly bad resolutions are the ones you can't afford to keep, even if you try. So don't join an expensive gym and line up a personal trainer, at least not right away. Shop around, find the gym that offers the best deal. Or, better yet, figure out ways to exercise that "don't cost you a dime," say the editors of Forbes. "Resolving to jog multiple times a week, take the stairs, or work out at home to an exercise DVD will help make you lighter and your wallet fuller."
4. Make it automatic
You can do yourself a huge favor, says Carrie Russell of TD Canada Trust, by doing something to make yourself more secure financially in 2011. It's easier than you might think. "Resolve to save some money each month" by having your bank set up an automatic transfer from the account where you put your paycheck into a savings account. You'll never see the money, "so you won't miss it," and when you need it — for a vacation, a "rainy day," or retirement — the cash will be there, waiting for you.
5. Get a buddy
One of the surest way to improve your chances of sticking to your resolutions is to make them public, says Geoff Kirsch in Juneau Empire. So tell people that you're going to lose those 10 pounds. Better yet, get a goal buddy to do it with you. It's all about "holding yourself accountable," says Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project. So "tell other people about your resolution, join or form a like-minded group, score yourself on a chart (my method) — whatever works for you to make yourself feel accountable for success and failure."