Resolutions are designed to fail. Here’s how you can succeed.

You’ve done it before. The new year comes, and you say, “This will be the year that I lose weight!” You’re not alone – from losing weight to quitting smoking, health resolutions are by far the most commonly made, accounting for 55.2% of our New Year’s best intentions. But, if you are like most people, come February, you will find yourself falling behind.

According to a study by Cornell University’s Kaitlin Wooley and University of Chicago research Ayelet Fishbach, the difference between resolutions that succeed and those that fail may have to do with short-term vs. long-term rewards. If you experience immediate enjoyment, you are more likely to stick with it. Here are some suggestions to get you to your goal.

Aim high

Want to run a marathon? Lose 50 pounds? Get a degree? Be ambitious! Goals should be challenging and push you, but still be attainable.

One step at a time

Take small steps toward your larger goals. Running a marathon, losing 50 pounds., or getting a degree? That can feel difficult, making it easier to get discouraged and give up. But running a 5K, losing 5-10 pounds, or taking a couple of classes? That feels doable. Reaching a series of shorter challenges gives you the reward of success – and the encouragement to tackle the next step towards your larger goal. Celebrate each milestone as you reach it and then aim for the next one. 

Write it down

Planning is one of the keys to reaching your goals. Defining your goals in clear, measurable terms provides a defined success. For example, if your resolution was simply “I’m going to exercise more this year!” how do you measure success? But if instead, you said “I’m going to walk 10,000 or more steps a day at least four days a week” you have a goal that you can measure and track. Your goal should have an outcome (“I’m going to run a marathon”) and a process (“I will start by running a mile a day five times a week, and each week I will add another mile a day.”)

Be positive

Focus on your successes, not your failures. We all stumble – celebrate the little successes along the way and move past the occasional misstep.  

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