You probably have a list, just like every year… but then in a few weeks to a few months, you’ll completely forget what they are, and next year you’ll make another list that’s almost exactly the same. So here are a couple of suggestions of how to make resolutions you actually stick to this year!

  1. Don’t make goals. Make resolutions. I realize this may seem like a nuance, but it helps to write them out as affirmations. “I WILL do this,” or “I am RESOLVED to do that”, rather than, “I hope I will” or “I think I will” or “I intend to.” Even better, write them out as statements in present tense. An example: if you want to tone up your muscles, say, “I AM firm and toned” instead of “I will be firm and toned.” This shifts your perspective, making the resolution seem more achievable. Then, reread your list of resolutions daily, or at least several times per week to keep them in the forefront of your mind.
  2. Break your resolutions down into categories. Dr. Daniel Amen recommends the “One Page Miracle,” in which you write out your resolutions in four categories: Relationships, Work, Finances, and Personal. Within each individual category, break it down further into the relationships in your life (spouse/partner, children, extended family, and friends), work (if you have, for instance, a current job and a side career or a dream career you’re working towards, put all of them down), finances (short and long term), and personal (body, mind and spirit). For each one, write where you’d like to be at the end of the year.
  3. Break your resolutions, within each category, down into manageable steps. There’s a concept called Reverse Engineering, which involves starting at the end and working your way backwards. Once you know where you want to end up in a year, back up about 6 months. Where will you have to be in 6 months to be on track for your year-long goal? Where will you need to be in 3 months to be on track for your 6 month goal? What about in the next month? Now you have something manageable that you can work towards in the next four weeks. If you need something even shorter term, work backwards for what you’ll need to do each week, and each day.
  4. Write out your daily goals. Every day, write out your “to-do” list in all four categories. Cross off each item as soon as you’ve accomplished it. Then at the end of the day, write your to-do list for the next day, or write it out when you wake up the next morning. If you keep doing this for the next 21 days, you’ll have developed a habit and it won’t be nearly so hard to keep it going for the rest of the year.
  5. Get an accountability partner. This can be much broader than just a workout partner. It will work best if you find an accountability partner who also has resolutions in all four categories, and you are comfortable sharing those resolutions with one another. Plan out your times to meet together in advance for weekly, every other week, or monthly, and tell your partner where you plan to be on your resolution timeline by the next meeting. This means you have a deadline: by a particular date, someone will check in with you to say, “How much time did you spend with your kids this month?” or “How many days per week did you make it to the gym?”

Here’s to a better you at the end of 2014!