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4 ways to make your New Year's resolutions stick

The vast majority of people fail in their annual quests for self-improvement. A tip sheet on how to wind up in the happy minority

Welcome to January, the traditional time to formulate resolutions that you're unlikely to keep. Surveys show that four out of five people break their New Year's resolutions, with one out of three ditching them by the end of January. How can you beat the odds? Here, four ways to make your best intentions stick (good luck):

1. Have someone else make your resolutions for you
"Sure, resolutions are supposed to be personal," says Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal. But "having someone you love tell you how you could become a better person" can be effective, if "terrifying." Encouraging a loved one to make your resolutions for you, and vice versa, can help alert you both to much-needed changes and lets you hold each other accountable.

2. Focus on quitting bad habits
"The biggest mistake most people make is jumping right into a new action plan," says Dr. Dike Drummond at The Huffington Post. Our lives are quite full already. Before you can institute new, positive behaviors, you have to quit negative ones that prevent you from living a happy, healthy life.

3. Prepare yourself for inevitable setbacks
"People often set themselves up for failures," and then give up as soon as they hit a wall, says Leslie Becker-Phelps at WebMD. Instead of interpreting a single relapse or mistake as a failure, think of it as a mere bump in the road that's part of the path to success.

4. Be specific
When it comes to self-improvement, "the more detail, the better," says Becker-Phelps. Don't just make a vague plan to eat healthier. Instead, say, "I will eat three balanced meals and two snacks each day." Yes, an "action plan" is key, says Drummond. But breaking resolutions down into small chunks makes them more doable and provides a concrete sense of accomplishment every time a mini-task is completed.

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