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The holiday season is usually a time when people get together with friends and family, and reflect on the things in their lives they love the most. Moving forward into a new year is a chance for a new start, and for many it’s a great time to create goals and resolutions around self improvement, weight loss or to get a better handle on finances.
Unfortunately for some, those goals may be unrealistic, and more often than not it’s easier to just give up on them. It’s not really our fault, though. You see, we’re dreamers, and tend to think big. We want to make more money or lose weight, but rarely have the plan in place to actually achieve these goals.
One study out of the University of Bristol found that among 3,000 participants, 88% of their resolutions ended without any positive results. Since there’s nothing inherently wrong with setting lofty goals, experts agree that when you make an action plan, you’re more likely to reach those goals and see some measurable outcomes.
If you’ve decided to make New Year’s resolutions for 2017, here are five things you should do first:
1. Reflect on last year’s mistakes
Did you make any goals last year that you never reached? What could you have done instead to achieve success?
Jennifer Jones with beliefnet.com says in order to make and keep your resolutions, you need to think about your weakest moments of the previous year and decide what you need to do in order to avoid the same mistakes this year.
To do this, simply take out a pen and some paper and start writing. On the left side of the paper, write “mistakes” in one column, and on the other side, write “promises” in another column.
Mention a couple of the things that held you back from achieving last year’s goals, and write down some promises that you’ll make to yourself to make a change this year.
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2. Make small goals that you think you can keep
This is important if you want a fighting chance to actually reach your goals start—small.
According to a post from the American Psychological Association, creating small goals from the beginning is more realistic, and there’s a better chance you’ll stick with them through the rest of the year.
If you want to lose weight, set a goal for the first month of the new year to replace five sugary desserts with a healthier option. In the next month, add a day at the gym each week.
3. Identify your barriers to success
Have you encountered roadblocks? Everyone has at some point. I like what entrepreneur Matt Ledgerwood said about barriers: “No entrepreneur would ever trade safety for freedom. We scratch, claw, run, jump, sacrifice to achieve this freedom. If a road block is defined as someone or something keeping us from our freedom, then out it goes. Stay focused on achieving freedom, and then there are no roadblocks– only the road that led us to our destination.”
4. Recommit to your goal every day
Like a married couple renewing their vows, when you remind yourself of your New Year’s resolutions, you’re recommitting yourself to stick with it.
If your motivation last year was lacking, make a plan this year to regularly recommit yourself to reach your goals.
Tina Haupert with the blog Carrots ‘N’ Cake says you can do this by posting sticky notes on your bathroom mirror, or writing yourself a note when you feel your motivation is lacking.
5. Create a specific plan of action
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
Now that you’ve promised to recommit yourself to your goals, you’ve identified your barriers, created small goals and reflected on last year’s mistakes, it’s time to create your action plan.
In an article for CNN, Katia Hetter says many New Year’s resolutions are actually flawed from the start. Hetter talked with University of Scranton psychology Professor John Norcross and ways to make and keep resolutions, and Norcross says when you create a specific action plan and can confidently ask for help in keeping accountable, you’ll be more likely to be successful.