We love the feeling of a brand new year—a clean slate for self-improvement! a fresh start!—but, like most people, we tend to lose steam by mid-January. Executive coach Jim Kochalka knows how challenging it is to create—and keep—resolutions that produce results. “We’ve all seen the gym fill up in January and thin out by February,” he says. This year, our resolution is to make better resolutions. We tapped Jim for the ultimate guide to creating resolutions that stick.
Be thoughtful about your goals
Ask yourself which areas of your life need improvement, and set goals that will get you there. For example, if you need to shape up your finances, resolve to create and stick to a budget every month. Think about what you’ll gain (financial security) and lose (weekly dinners out with friends) from the resolution, and decide if you’re willing to follow through.
Take baby steps
Set one or two resolutions that you know you can achieve. Success breeds success—start small, see what it feels like to meet a milestone and you’ll be empowered to take on bigger challenges next New Year’s Day (and every New Year’s Day after that).
Hold yourself accountable
Write your goals on paper and tell someone who will encourage you to keep trying if you slip up. You’ll be more likely to follow through when you say your resolutions out loud to someone else.
Make a plan
If your resolution is to lose 10 pounds by mid-February, maybe your plan is to go to the gym three times a week, bring your lunch to work every day and cut sweets from your diet. Having a clear, simple plan will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and motivate you to get started.
Track your progress
Check in regularly to make sure your plan is working for you and to see how far you’ve come. Everyone is different—checking the scale each day motivates some and discourages others—so figure out a system that works best for you.
Remember that resolutions aren’t just for New Year’s Day
The new year is simply one common (and fun) chance to hit the “reset” button in our lives. In truth, you can do that any hour, day, week or month of the year. Any day can be a “new day,” even without the fireworks and champagne.