How to Pick an Actually Achievable New Year's Resolution for 2018

Tips for New Years Resolutions
Photo: Copyright 2017 Lucas Ottone/Stocksy

It's that time again, when everyone's favorite (least favorite?) party-first holiday arrives in full force: New Year's Eve.

Well, OK, only some of us celebrate New Year's as though the last 364 days were just leading up to it, but nonetheless, choosing a resolution to set the tone for what's to come in a fresh year is an age-old tradition.

But what happens when that goal is a little bit ... lofty?

Nothing, really, and therein lies the problem. When you set extreme goals without much thought or preparation, you're likely setting yourself up to fail. (Does your resolution success rate plummet right about when February rolls in? Yeah, us too.) Jim Collins, New York Times bestselling author of Great by Choice, calls these kinds of goals "big hairy audacious goals" because they seem so overwhelming that you can't possibly fully commit to them.

So how can you set yourself up for goal-related success if you don't want to spend a lot of time preparing? Believe it or not, it's actually pretty simple.

Follow these steps, and you'll make 2018 the year you finally follow through on self-improvement in a whole new way.

Pare down your goals.

It can be tempting to choose a large, vague goal when you start to think about your resolution, but that's often a mistake. If you don't go to the gym at all, for example, and you decide you want to start a 6-day-a-week routine, chances are you won't follow through.

Take baby steps, suggests the American Psychological Association (APA), especially if your goal involves starting launching into something new. If you want to go to the gym, committing to one day a week is a great, and less intimidating, way to get started.

Make it simple and specific.

While "eat healthier" sounds brilliant, it can be hard to make good on that promise when it's the third week of January and your friend is serving your favorite kind of cake at her birthday party. What does "eat healthier" really mean? Does it mean don't eat anything that's not a superfood? Or does it mean sticking to a specific balanced diet? Or does it mean cutting back on certain foods you tend to overeat?

Get detailed when outlining your goal instead of getting caught in generalities, happiness expert Gretchen Rubin advised in an op-ed earlier this year: Decide to add more vegetables to your dinners once a week, or replace dessert with a green smoothie. Sometimes taking small steps can be more impactful than trying to make sweeping changes all at once.

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Make a single resolution, not multiple.

It's tempting to want to change a ton of things when presented with the idea of hitting refresh, but that's misguided, the APA notes.

If you pick one thing—even if it's really small—and focus your time and energy on that, you're more likely to stick to the resolution in April when your New Year's ambition is but a distant memory.

Tell others about your plan.

Cluing others into your goals is agreat way to hold yourself accountable. According to a study conducted by the American Society of Training and Development, committing to another person when setting an intention made participants significantly more likely to follow through.

Plus, they can make resolutions more fun and less solitary, particularly if you've chosen a resolution that doesn't involve other people outside of yourself. Talk about a major win-win.

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