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3 January 2020

How to make New Year’s resolutions that you’ll actually keep

As the new year begins, it’s normal to feel the desire to make some resolutions, both for your personal life and your studies. You might want to motivate yourself to try new experiences, change some bad habits or just be in the moment more. 

Things usually begin well – you make a handful of ambitious promises to yourself to change your life, and you commit to them for a couple of weeks.

But when day-to-day reality sets in, it’s easy to fall into old habits and forget about the positive intentions you had. You’ve heard the statistics: in the space of a few months, most people’s resolutions have been cast aside or forgotten about.

The key is to avoid vague resolutions that don’t mean anything to you (like ‘get fit’) and instead, structure them as achievable and relevant personal goals.

Here’s how to make resolutions that you’ll actually keep.

  1. Set resolutions that are structured like goals, which make them more realistic. Use the SMART goal structure, where each goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Give each resolution a timeframe, and make sure they are within your capabilities.
  2. Resolutions often fail because they revolve around what we think we should be doing, not what we truly want. Make sure your resolutions mean something real to you, and aren’t just to please someone else.
  3. Write them down and talk about them to your partner, family or close friends. This can make you accountable and help you remember to check in with your resolutions from time to time in your diary or on your device.
  4. Don’t worry if you slip up a few times or need a break – resolutions aren’t about achieving perfection, but incremental change. Remember to celebrate small victories, like when you achieve your resolutions for a week or two. And if you need to modify your resolutions, don’t hesitate. That’s not failure, it’s actually personal success!

To get you started, here are five examples of vague resolutions and some alternative ways of phrasing them to make them more achievable. 

Instead of ‘get fit’, try ‘go for a one-hour walk once a week’ or ‘go to three new types of exercise class this year’.

Instead of ‘eat healthy’, try ‘cook a salad or a soup on Sunday’ or ‘go without sugar in my coffee’.

Instead of ‘do well at uni’, try ‘get help with my assignments when I’m struggling’ or ‘find a study buddy and schedule time to prepare for exams with them’.

Instead of ‘save money’, try ‘set aside $25 or $50 per week’ or ‘pay off my credit card debt’.

Instead of ‘be more mindful’, try ‘read one page of a book before bed instead of scrolling on my phone’ or ‘take my KeepCup with me to the cafe every day’.

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