Let’s be honest: how many of us have made noble New Year’s resolutions, only to backslide and throw in the towel before the first page of the calendar has flipped? But this year’s gonna be different (no, really) because you have help. We asked several self-improvement gurus what it takes to stay on track. Here are their top tips to guarantee you leave the new year a better man than you entered it.
1. Get Specific
“Lose weight” is a pretty bad New Year’s resolution. “Lose 10 pounds by March 1” is much better. “Having specific and measurable goals will lead to success, because the goals are attainable,” notes psychotherapist Christina Steinorth. After all, it’s easier to make progress when you know you are making progress. Other examples: “Work out for 30 minutes three times a week.” “Call home every Sunday.” “Throw more TDs than picks.” (We’re looking at you, Eli Manning.)
2. Think Small
Instead of a huge, all-encompassing New Year’s resolution, make several smaller ones, suggests Steinorth. It’s a numbers game, people. If you have a bunch of resolutions, the chances are greater that you’re going to keep at least some of them. This provides you with a silver lining when others don’t quite pan out. Rather than junking your single, big resolution, you can redouble your efforts with the ones you are crushing.
3. Visualize Success
“Before you tackle a particular resolution, write out how your life will change once you have accomplished your goal,” says life coach Jennifer Lee. This isn’t some nonsense out of The Secret—it takes the benefit of your commitment from abstraction to reality. For example: “If I lose 10 pounds, I’ll look great, gain confidence, and date hotter women.” There’s no better way to stay on task when times get tough than picturing something like that.
4. Fill the Vacuum
It’s tricky to stay committed to pulling back on a vice if in its place is a gaping hole. Fill it. “If your resolution is to cut out caffeine, add something new to your diet that makes you happy,” advises Lee. “Try a new fruit or flavored beverage every week.” Replacing the old, unhealthy behavior with a new, beneficial one will make it easier to change—and give you two life improvements for the price of one.
5. Track Your Progress
Resolution #43. Find better stock photography.
Get a notebook and keep a record of your commitment, says life coach Leah Carey. Write down the specific actions you take to meet your goal each day. If you don’t do anything one day to meet your goal, make a note of that as well. Then forgive yourself and take up the challenge again the next day. The process will hold you accountable while helping you stay on task and make baby steps toward your goals.
6. Be Flexible
You might find your resolutions aren’t as realistic as you once thought. But rather than just giving up, adjust your outlook. “Be ready to switch to plan B if you find that your original plan isn’t successful,” says Marla Sloane, Ph.D., an executive life coach. Maybe getting to the gym three times a week is unrealistic, but you can make it twice and join a weekend sports league to get a third fitness session in. That’s much better than throwing in the towel. It might even be fun, too.