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New Year’s resolutions are more like famous last words, and it’s easy to get swamped by the scope of a goal like “lose 50 pounds,” or “get back in shape.” What can you do to make it stick this time around? The best changes you can make are in the ways you phrase your goals, and by thinking of them in terms of the steps you can take to achieve them.

Set yourself up for success: When we focus on major, specific changes, we can sap our own confidence before we begin (especially if we’ve failed before). Instead of “join a gym and go at least 3 times a week,” consider “be a little more active every day, even if it’s light, and start going to the gym once a week.” This kind of resolution gives us the opportunity to succeed at some point every day, and gets us into habits that we can build on as our confidence (and familiarity) grows.

Get tactical: Some of the most popular failed resolutions are about habits rather than achievements. You don’t want to “lose 50 pounds” so much as “be a person with less body fat,” so think about how to be that person on a daily basis — nutritious food choices, being more aware of how much you eat, and getting enough heart-healthy exercise to help smooth out your blood sugar and sleep more restfully. Zero in on the small choices that add up to success.

Be careful with dates: Sometimes reaching a big goal means back-tracking and restarts, and sometimes real life intervenes and changes the timetable. “I will run a half-marathon before the end of the year” could turn steer you wrong if you get injured — it can be hard to get enough healing time as you watch your training schedule get further behind. A deadline can be a great motivator, but sometimes you need a more flexible approach.

Disaster-proof your changes: If you get a new gym membership, give some thought to how often you have to go to feel motivated by it — rather than hopeless about ever making it worth the price. If you have a tendency to binge, give some thought to how you’ll shake it off and move forward. If it seems like you get injured every time you get back to exercising, get some instruction from a trainer or see a physical therapist promptly so you can learn how to recover and prevent further problems.

Rethinking your resolutions can take some time. Go ahead and get started. Maybe use BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits system to experiment with a couple of small changes as practice. You can do this!

Photo from Neatorama

What are some of your old, uncompleted resolutions? How can you revise them and make them work?

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