Reality check: How to make your New Year's resolutions stick

Consider these tips for keeping your resolutions realistic and attainable


Many of us set ourselves up for failure even before the new year begins by making unrealistic resolutions. Consider these tips for keeping your resolutions realistic and attainable.

1. Be flexible

Goal setting is an experiment. Be willing to alter your goals and follow a contingency plan when life events change. Flexibility keeps you open to opportunities as new information emerges.

Determine what is a reasonable goal for you, given your family and professional time demands.
Determine what is a reasonable goal for you, given your family and professional time demands. (Pixabay)

2. Be affirming

An affirmation is a short statement that makes your intentions clear. If your goal is to become more physically fit, write on an index card, "I exercise regularly and I am in excellent physical shape." Even though this may not be true today, tomorrow or next week, the statement will help you stay on track to improve.

Affirmations are words of self-direction, not self-deception. Repeat your affirmation to yourself daily.

3. Be visual

Breath deep, close your eyes and visualize yourself achieving your goal. If your goal is to quit smoking, for example, visualize yourself turning down a cigarette when one is offered to you or stopping yourself when you go to buy a pack. Your mind will use those images to help you act accordingly. What you see is what you get.

4. Be realistic

Determine what is a reasonable goal for you, given your family and professional time demands. But don't sell yourself short. Stretch your vision a bit. Even if you don't achieve your goal, you'll be further along than if you hadn't done so.

Here are two examples of giving your resolution a reality check:

  • Resolution: I will refrain from all beer, ice cream and fatty foods.
  • Reality check: Too drastic. Moderation is the key to success when changing eating habits.
  • More realistic resolution: Cut your intake of the targeted foods/beverages by 50%.
  • Resolution: I will be a better officer.
  • Reality check: Too vague. Lacks specificity.
  • More realistic resolution: Pick a specific area of your policework to improve on and work on it.

5. Be courageous

The word courage is taken from the French word "coeur," or heart. To follow your heart you must take risks; you must give yourself permission to fail. Errors and setbacks are valuable teachers. We are the sum of our corrected mistakes. If you don't let it all hang out once in a while, you'll never know your potential.

6. Be specific

To measure your progress, you must clearly define your objectives. Consider making a weekly personal contract, committing to workouts that carry you toward your goal. Create graphs for progress –a rewarding method that provides instant feedback.

7. Be positive

State your goals so they say what you want rather than what you don't want. For example: "I will eat healthier food," rather than, "I won't eat junk food."

8. Be patient and persistent

It usually takes more time than you expect to reach your goals. That's why it's the direction you're going in that's important, not whether you get there on time. Too often we quit when the finish line is just over the horizon.

9. Be passionate

Make the journey to your goal worthwhile and fun by involving things you have a passion for. If you enjoy eating lots of different foods, for example, but have chosen to lose weight, involve your passion for food in your drive toward your goal. Decide to start sampling as many different healthy, low-calorie foods as you can find (not all in one sitting, of course). You'll still be enjoying new foods and you'll still be on the road to reaching your goal.

We hope that you will always stay dedicated to the most important resolution you can make to yourself and the ones you love – to stay safe and return home after every shift.

This article, originally published 01/28/2009, has been updated.

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