2013 New Year Resolutions: The Fool Proof Way to Keep Your Resolution

New Years resolutions — Every year we are cajoled into making resolutions and goals to better ourselves and improve our habits over the next year. While striving towards better lifestyles is a main purpose in life, most of these new year resolutions are doomed to fail. Why?

Resolutions fail because people actually aren’t ready to commit to them. Lose 30 lbs but not so much as walking 30 minutes a day at the moment? Fail. Learn a new language, but already working 60 hours a week with two kids? Fail. If goals and resolutions are prioritized, don’t have small, achievable steps, and don’t have time limits or accountability, they will fail.

So what makes a "good" resolution? Something achievable. Any goal has to stretch you limits beyond your comfort zone, but it most be achievable. If you want to lose 30 pounds but aren’t exercising at all at the moment. Perhaps you’re first goal is to do 30 minutes of activity three times a week. That can be walking or jogging in your own backyard, signing up for zumba or getting a personal trainer. You will need to reevaluate how you spent your time every day and week and prioritize the actions and activities needed to work towards your goal in order to succeed. Your long-term goal may be to lose 30 pounds, but starting a healthy habit of physical activity three times a week and then evaluating your progress each month is a surefire way to get there. By 2014, you may be the only one of your friends to achieve your resolution.

But do we need New Year's resolutions at all? Many people, including popular Zen Habits blogger Leo Babauta, don’t think so. In fact, Leo believes they are counterproductive to personal growth. Goals can become as stressful and pressurized as work obligations or other things people often avoid. When you’re working to avoid your New Year’s resolution because its stressing you out, you’re not going to be able to achieve it. Not setting goals can free you up — give you the space you need to stretch yourself comfortably without whipping yourself for every procrastination and defeat. Leo’s way is a more zen way of living and growing. (Interested? Watch Leo and Tim Ferris debate the merits of goals for personal development).

In short, the reason most of us do not achieve are New Year’s resolutions or even remember them is because we don’t make smart choices about what we want to achieve and how we are going to change our lifestyle to make it happen. No goal is meant to be easy and if you aren’t committed to making changes, you won’t succeed. Not setting goals may be the pinnacle of personal development, but most beginners will not be able to achieve much at first without going through a period of making them. My advice to "winning" New Year’s resolutions is to stick to one big resolution with daily or weekly actionable steps and monthly reviews to ensure that you prioritize your goal.

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Katie Gresham

A graduate of American University's International Peace and Conflict Resolution program, Katie currently lives in London where she works with well-known international development NGOs. She has a keen interest in international affairs skewed towards development and conflicts issues. She has augmented her academic studies with trips to Northern Ireland, Kenya, Cyprus and the Balkans.

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