6 Tips and Tricks for Sticking to Your Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

Follow these tips and tricks for keeping your New Year’s Resolutions (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

It turns out that when it comes to our frequent inability to stick to our New Year’s resolutions, we shouldn’t be blaming our willpower, we should be blaming our brains.  You see, the rational part of our brain that sets the resolutions and genuinely wants to do what is best for us is no match for the pleasure seeking part of our brain.  Since the pleasure seeker originally evolved as a survival mechanism it can override or overrule the rational part of our brain, even when it is clear to every part of our brain that we do not actually need that chocolate chip cookie in order to survive.  This year, set yourself up for success by using these tips and tricks designed to get your whole brain on board with the changes you are trying to make.

1.     Practice Makes Perfect

When it comes to willpower, practice makes perfect – or at least better.  Research indicates that the more you exercise self-control in various areas of your life, the easier it becomes to exert self-control in all areas of your life.

2.     Don’t Try to Multitask

While it may be tempting to try and fix everything at once, you need to give your poor warring brain a break.  Pick the resolution that will make the biggest difference and make sticking to that resolution your goal.  Focusing on one major change at a time increases your chances of being successful.

3.     Turn Big Dreams Into Small Actions

Now this might sound like we are now advocating for more than one resolution at a time, but that it not the case.  To be successful, you need to take that one resolution and break it up into smaller steps that can help you get to the long term goal one day at a time.  For example, if your resolution is to run a marathon this summer, small steps like running a certain number of miles a week or competing in 5K races help keep the long term goal part of your daily life.

4.     Do Things that Make You Happy

Too often we put “happy” as the result of achieving the goals we set but research shows that when we are happy, we are more productive and more likely to persevere through difficult times.   In other words, being happy makes you more likely to succeed. Bolster your willpower by doing things that make you happy or that make you laugh.

5.     Don’t Draw Hard Lines

When it comes to making real, lasting lifestyle changes, we are our own worst enemy.  The rebellious teenager that lives inside each of us will balk at any prohibition or hard limit.  You can avoid getting that side of you involved by giving yourself some breathing room.  So instead of resolving to never eat chocolate again, decide that you are not going to eat chocolate every day.

6.     Celebrate Success…..Even When it is Small

Another reason that it is important to break the big resolution into small pieces is so that you can celebrate and reward yourself along the way.  Since it can take several months to make a significant change that sticks, you need encouragement and little pats on the back along the way.  Remember, even a single day without chocolate is worth celebrating…as long as you don’t reward yourself with a piece of chocolate!

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