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What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

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Happy 2013! What did you resolve to change this year?

If you’re like most people, you probably resolved to lose weight, get organized, enjoy life more or save money. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, more than 62% of Americans made self-improvement resolutions like these in 2012, and most of them kept up on their resolutions for at least two weeks.

However, the same study reports that only 46% of these resolutions led to changes in habit that lasted more than six months.

Don’t want to be a negative statistic? Follow these steps to ensure that your New Year’s resolutions stick.

Get Specific and Realistic

Want to lose weight? Don’t resolve to “someday” get ripped like Channing Tatum or look as good in a bikini as Jessica Alba. Instead, work towards your goal by breaking it down into achievable steps. Start by resolving to lose five pounds in five weeks. When you’ve done that, resolve to lose five more.

This applies to all types of goals. Don’t vow to “get organized.” What does that mean? Instead, pick an area of your life that you’d like to see more organization in, and focus on finding ways to streamline. For instance, you could designate Mondays as “de-cluttering days,” each week picking a different room of your home and ridding it of at least 25 worn-out, broken, rarely used or unnecessary items.

Make It Easy

If the steps involved in meeting your goal are too complicated, your resolution is likely to fail. Complex diets with Byzantine rules rarely work as well as making a simple lifestyle change, such as the decision to eat oatmeal and fresh fruit for breakfast every day.

Likewise, you can simplify many of your resolutions by either paring them down or automating them. For instance, if you’d like to save money, you can download a free app like Decide, which uses highly accurate price prediction software to tell you if expensive products will soon be going down in cost (so that you know the best time to buy them.) Or, if you’d like to market your business more aggressively, you can use an automated marketing program like ServiceMonster’s FillMySchedule, where we produce, print, stuff, stamp, seal and send direct mail campaigns for you.

Tell Everybody and Celebrate Your Progress

The ugly truth is, we’re more likely to follow through on our resolutions if other people know about them. Fear of bruised pride might not be a virtuous motivation, but it’s an effective one. So share your goals with your friends, family, colleagues and online social networks. Because in those moments when you’re thinking of giving up, the idea of explaining that to all of those people will seem a lot less attractive than getting over yourself and getting on with it.

You might also try committing publicly to meeting a milestone that will show off your progress. For instance, if your goal is to get more fit, sign up to run a short marathon three months in the future. Or if you want to save enough money to go on an exotic vacation, go ahead and book the time off. The prospect of wasting precious vacation days on a “staycation” will push you to tighten your belt and follow through on your dream.

While telling everybody about your resolutions may be embarrassing, the flip side is that you’ll have lots of cheerleaders on hand to help you celebrate your progress. Don’t forget to congratulate yourself for meeting your goals! Throw yourself a party, go to the movies with your family, buy yourself a new gadget or pair of boots—whatever it takes to make yourself feel great about your new habit. Positive reinforcement is an excellent motivator too!

Don’t Give Up

Forming new routines and ways of thinking can be hard. We’re creatures of habit, and it’s all too easy to backslide into old behaviors, even if we know that new behaviors are healthier for us. Many people make a tiny slip-up on a given resolution (missing a gym class, or forgetting to track their business’ financial data for a week or so), and decide that they’re undisciplined monsters, incapable of getting in shape or managing their finances.

Don’t give up! It’s natural for you to occasionally mess up. The important thing is to get back on track with your goal tomorrow.

However, if you find that you’re continually falling short of your targets, you may have set the bar too high. Look for ways to scale down your goals and make them more realistic. If you can’t meet your goal of blogging daily, try blogging weekly. If you can’t find the time to work out for one hour three times a week, try sneaking a few high-cardio ten-minute routines into your work days (running stairs, jogging three times around the block, a jump-rope session.) If you persist with little changes like these, you’ll find they result in big pay-offs!

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