4 Steps to Making Resolutions You Can Keep

January 1, 2011

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.”Leonardo da Vinci

“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act upon them?”Buddha

The new year is here and – do I even have to say it? – resolutions are a great way to take control of your life and get proactive about becoming the person you want to be.  That said, resolutions are useless if you don’t follow through with them.  Every year, millions of people make resolutions that fall by the wayside within a month or two.  So how do you keep your resolution?  Here are 4 steps to make it easier:

Be realistic. Make a resolution that is doable.  This is important.  If, for instance, you are deeply out of shape, resolving to compete and place in a decathlon is obviously out of reach.  You won’t do it, and the “failing” will discourage you from working on your fitness in the future.  At the same time, though, don’t shortchange yourself, or make a resolution so easy that it isn’t useful, significant, or transformative.

Be specific. Resolving to “get in shape” is nebulous and doesn’t qualify any sort of path to achievement.  Give yourself qualifiable, quantifiable goals like “increase my lift max by 10%” or “lower my percentage body fat by 10.”  Something with numbers or a clear cut victory will give you something concrete to shoot for, and that will get you motivated.  Specificity is important, too, in creating action steps.  Don’t just create the goal, make a list of active, concrete steps you will be taking to reach that goal.

Be flexible. Concrete and flexible?  Yes.  It sounds counterintuitive, I know.  What I’m suggesting is that you give yourself something based on averages over time.  That way, any individual failure doesn’t have to spell the end of your resolution.  This is why a resolution like “increase my max lift weight by 10%” is better than “go to the gym every week.”  Not only does it give you a specific goal, but if you miss a week at the gym, it doesn’t spell failure for the year.   A good resolution will improve your self image, not make you feel like a failure.  Likewise, be flexible in achievement: if you hit your goal (say, 10% increase) by July, don’t call it quits.  Recalibrate and aim to increase by 10% again by December.

Be accountable. Announce your intention to someone ask them to check in with you over the year about how your resolution is coming along.  Even better, find someone like-minded and work on your mutual goal together.  Answering to someone else increases your odds of success drastically.

So, with all that, what is my new year’s resolution?  My resolution is to keep this blog going all year.  My specific goal is a minimum of 24 new entries by December 31, 2011.  This works out to an average of two entries per month, but is flexible for times when I am busy, as it is a yearly total.  If I write three this month and one next month, I’m still on track.  If I hit 24 in July, you can be sure I won’t stop writing.  As for action items, I’ve started creating a list of topics to write about and sources to flesh out points that I don’t have enough information on yet.  As for accountability, I have my readers.

Mark Sisson has some helpful PDFs here and here that will be useful in this process. They are geared with the intention of health/fitness resolutions, but should still work for other resolution applications as well.
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Feedback: What are your new year’s resolutions?  What are your action items?  How will you be accountable?

One Response to “4 Steps to Making Resolutions You Can Keep”


  1. […] you’ve set up a goal for yourself (maybe your new year’s resolution), you’ve worked hard, and now, you’ve achieved your goal.  Great!  But…what […]

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