How to Keep Your Resolution When the New Year’s Feel-Good Haze Wears Off

There’s just something about the start of a new year that inspires us to make promises about how we want to be better in the oncoming year.

Who knows if it is because you’re feeling tipsy from drink or maybe you’re freezing at some outdoor event? Whatever the reason, inspiration suddenly hits you, and it’s like you have to proclaim it aloud to make it real. You declare that your new year’s resolution will be to learn something new or change some bad behavior. But, in reality, how do you keep your resolution?

Whatever it is, you feel strongly about it and there is no excuse like the new year to take action. Later, as everyone counts down the seconds to midnight, as they cheer for the fresh start we get every 12 months, you cheer for another reason. This is the year you are going to do it. This is the year you are going to make your resolution happen. Of course, the question of how to keep your resolution is a whole different story. Luckily, we'll show you how to make and keep your resolution.

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A Bit About New Year's Resolutions

The reset of the calendar is the perfect time to evaluate what is and isn't working in your life. Resolutions give us the chance to start anew to become better versions of ourselves. But what about keeping them? We've broken down everything you'll need to know about how to keep your resolution.

What is a New Year’s Resolution Anyway?

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Simply put, a New Year’s Resolution is just any other goal. It’s something you want to do (or stop doing), and it will take considerable personal effort to achieve it. However, what makes it different is the way in which you came to this conclusion. As a grown adult declaring that you are going to learn how to play the oboe might seem strange and unimportant.

But on New Year’s Eve? It makes perfect sense to everyone around you, and they are likely all supportive. Unlike other goals, there should be an element of wishful thinking or even silliness to a resolution. Yes, you want to better yourself, but it shouldn’t be something that will help you at work or anything like that. It should be about you and making yourself feel better, one way or another.

Why Can It Be Hard to Keep Your Resolution?

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Believe it or not, half-buzzed at a holiday party is not often the best place to make decisions about big life changes. By the time the holiday haze clears away, you may realize that you’ve set a bigger goal for yourself than you thought. Or, you might realize that despite the best of intentions, you haven’t made a sufficient plan to see it through.

Whatever the reason, New Year’s resolutions are so often broken that idea became a social media meme on January 2nd. But, unless your resolution was really, really silly, it’s likely not a bad thing to attempt. Yet, the journey from the sudden burst of inspiration to actually doing it is not always an easy one. That’s where these tips come in. Hopefully with a little guidance and planning, you can be one of the few people who can say that you actually kept your promise to yourself.

What Happens If You Fail?

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One thing about how to keep a resolution that no one ever talks about is that you have to keep trying, even if you fail at first. Whether your resolution is to eat healthier or learn an instrument, the second you fall short it feels like you missed your chance. Perhaps it’s the sudden nature of how you get the idea that makes it seem this way, but it’s not true.

We’ll discuss the importance of failure below, but it suffices to say that failing is part of the journey. Any resolution you’ve chosen is just like riding a bike. You are going to fall down, you might even get a little hurt. If that happens, instead of just quitting until next year, you pick yourself up and try again. Failure can be a gift if you approach it with the right attitude, especially if you use the experience to learn from your mistakes.

How to Keep Your Resolution In 8 Easy Steps

Below you will find our short guide featuring tips and suggestions about how to keep your resolution. Even though they usually are made on a whim, any resolution represents some kind of achievable goal. You can figure out what those are and make real steps towards achieving them. 

Step 1: Recognize Why You Made the Resolution

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Resolutions are not all alike. As mentioned above, what sets them apart from other goals is that they have a wistful quality to them. Sure, they’re just goals, but either they struck you on a whim or represent some kind of dream. Unfortunately, sometimes they are born from being completely intoxicated.

Still, there is something to look at even in those. Even if it was completely ridiculous, like “I want to fly out in space,” it means something. Private space tourism isn’t feasible (yet), but a resolution like that suggests the person wants or needs an adventure. You might not make it into space, but you can visit a tropical paradise. Countries like Peru or Bali have such gorgeous vistas and rich cultures that can satiate your need for adventure.

Other times, the resolution isn’t as ambiguous, such as “I want to quit smoking” or “I want to get my dream job.” It’s a little easier to know how to keep your resolution when it’s a clearly-stated and achievable goal. Still, a little introspection can’t hurt. Why do you want to quit smoking? Is it because you are feeling unhealthy or because you know, eventually, you will? Do you want your dream job because it’s your dream or do you just hate your career? How to keep your resolution often has less to do with achieving the goal and more to do with finding a way to reclaim some passion, excitement, or happiness in your life.

Step 2: Break It Down Into Achievable Sub-Goals

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Once you have identified what your true goal is, you then have to figure out, literally, how to keep your resolution. What are the steps you are going to take to learn to play the oboe or run a marathon on your birthday?

There are many advantages to breaking down your goal into smaller pieces. The main one is that it also works as a roadmap you can follow as you work towards keeping your resolution. To use the marathon example, runners often don’t think of the finish line, but rather a much closer marker. They just have to get to that place. Then, when they get there, they look to the next thing. Even though the track is clearly mapped out, it’s less intimidating to thing of smaller, more easily achievable goals.

The other reason this works so well is that it gives you a feeling of victory and achievement, even if you haven’t done that much. Discouragement happens so easily, that by hitting certain benchmarks you feel as though you are progressing. If your New Year’s resolution is to bench press 400 pounds, you will still feel accomplishment when you hit 200, 250, and so on.

Figuring out what these milestones will be is a crucial step, because when you feel like abandoning this effort, it’s those little benchmarks that will keep you on track. Even when the ultimate goal feels impossibly far away, you will have these other things to work towards. Done right, by the time you even start thinking about the end goal, you’re almost to it.

Step 3: Formalize It Any Way You Can

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In the gym, people work out usually one of two ways. The first is that they have a very strict list of exercises, rest times, and routines. The second just sort of do what they feel like, trusting their body and instinct to guide them. Both of these groups can just as easily decide to forego the gym altogether that day if they feel like it.

Yet, if you have an appointment with a personal trainer you are less likely to do so. Whether it’s because you are paying for that trainer’s time or just hate breaking appointments, formalizing that workout session in that way helped to ensure it would happen. Something like that is how to keep your resolution work on track.

If your specific resolution doesn’t really lend itself to a service like that, it can seem impossible to formalize your plan for how to keep your resolution. Yet, it doesn’t have be done with a professional, in fact you can even do it yourself. Write out a contract with yourself, which will feel silly but has value. Sometimes seeing these things written out that way, as a set of promised deliverables, can help you engage another part of your brain towards the achievement of this goal. Whether you formalize it by taking classes, working with a professional, or simply with yourself, this is a step to show how serious you are about keeping your resolution.

Step 4: Give Yourself a Loose Time-Frame

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Those who often talk about goal achievement urge people to give themselves a strict time-frame. It’s in our nature to procrastinate, especially when things get difficult, so a deadline is meant to loom over everything so you actually see it through. Of course, these deadlines and time frames can have the opposite effect. If you promise to quit eating fast food altogether in a month or something even more difficult to quit, missing that deadline can be a great excuse to just abandon your resolution altogether.

To that end, give yourself a realistic time-frame but keep it loose. Maybe you want to learn to play the piano by the end of the year. Yet, when November rolls around, you’re still struggling with chopsticks. All this means is that you may need to adjust your approach and give yourself a little more time to get the hang of things. In fact, instead of giving yourself a limited amount of time to achieve your goal, promise yourself a specific amount of time each week to do it. This way, you are committed to your goal but don’t have to worry about hitting some arbitrary deadline. Thus, you're already halfway there for knowing how to keep your resolution.

Step 5: Figure Out Where You Need Discipline

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Of course, giving yourself a specific timeframe is how to keep your resolution if you know you need help with discipline. The actual difficulty of your goal is only half the battle, because the other half is spent fighting the urge we all get just to put things off. This is where you have to learn to be a little tough on yourself. If you know that you are susceptible to certain kinds of procrastination, the only person who can prevent you from falling prey to it is you. This is another area where someone like a personal trainer or other outside party can help keep you on track. Yet, what are you to do if your resolution doesn’t lend itself to that kind of third-party assistance?

Simply put, you have to suck it up and do it yourself. There are many reasons the United States military puts their recruits through basic training. One of the reasons it’s such a loud and draconian process is to teach the recruits discipline. Whether they are marching or cleaning their weapons, they know to follow orders, follow procedure, and avoid shortcuts.

Luckily, you don’t have to submit yourself to side-straddle hops or flutter-kicks to develop discipline. It’s as simple as forcing yourself to do something when you don’t want to. Of course, that also can be really difficult. Find your inspiration or some other emotion to help drive you. Discipline is simply a matter of imposing your will on yourself. You know what’s best for you, and if you truly want to keep your resolution, you have to make yourself do the work. 

Step 6: Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst

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While we’re talking about the military, one of their aphorisms is great for everyday life: Failing to plan is planning to fail. If how you keep your resolution is just diving in feet-first, chances are you aren’t going to succeed. But, all the most careful planning and discipline in the world doesn’t guarantee your success. Perhaps the resolution you chose in those drunken, hopeful hours before midnight on December 31st just wasn’t do-able. Or maybe it’s just simply harder than you thought it would be. Whatever the case may be, don’t let something as meaningless as failure discourage you.

You want hope that everything will go according to plan, and that you will be able to achieve your goal easily of how to keep your resolution. Yet, failure is as much of a learning experience as anything else. Except in very rare and specific cases, just because you don’t succeed at something doesn’t mean you can’t try it again and again.

In fact, failure is actually something of a gift. If you wanted to learn to ice skate and were immediately excellent at it, it’d be kind of boring. But if you tried and fell to the ice a bunch of times, the first time you skate backwards or hit that axle will be all that more rewarding. You don’t want to plan to fail, but plan in such a way that failure is just another tool in the box to help you keep your resolution.

Step 7: Make Your Journey Public

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Social media is one of those technological advancements that people remain consistently puzzled about. Some think it, and the devices that make it so popular, are the downfall of an entire generation. While there are unquestionably some bad elements to it, it also provides a platform and voice to those who might not have one otherwise.

So, whether you just want to document it on social media or even start an anonymous Twitter account or blog, document your journey. How you keep your resolution will be recorded for you to see and others to find.

This is another way of keeping yourself honest and on-track. It also forces some public accountability, which is another way to encourage discipline. The other benefit to this is that you might find others are looking to achieve the same goal as you. This could lead to you finding a community of sorts (or even starting one), where you and others with the same goal can help each other along. In fact, you could even find an audience who doesn’t share your ultimate goal. People love to watch and read along with someone on a journey.

Step 8: Remember to Reward Your Progress

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Finally, remember that part of your resolution is supposed to be fun. To that end, don’t be afraid to reward yourself when you hit certain benchmarks or just because. The idea that you must always be strict with yourself or hardcore when it comes to discipline is not all the way accurate.

Yes, sometimes you have to be firm, but if you are unrelenting you’re more likely to discourage yourself than push forward. Thus, you have to remember to—in the words of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle—treat yourself! Give yourself a present, a reward, or just some time off as you make your way to your goal.

Of course, just how you treat yourself depends on the resolution. For example, if your resolution is to quit smoking, rewarding yourself with a cigarette actually undoes your progress. If it is something like a diet or losing weight, maybe you can have a cheat day or something like that. The best sort of reward, however, is one unrelated to your goal. Buy yourself something nice or take a trip, all in the name of rewarding your progress. Achieving any goal is much easier when you have something to look forward to that you really enjoy.

Knowing how to keep your resolution is the same as knowing how to achieve any goal: commitment, discipline, and a clear end-point.

A resolution lies somewhere between a wish and a goal, but the way to achieve it is the same as anything else: hard work. Yet, just because your resolution is a challenge, that doesn’t mean it is impossible to achieve. With some patience, commitment, and our guide, you are well on your way to ringing in the next New Year by celebrating your accomplishment. How to keep your resolution is not some impossible mystery, but rather a goal that can be achieved with patience and persistence. Whether it’s to learn a new skill or break a bad habit, you can do what you put your mind to.

What do you think? Do you know any other tricks about how to keep your resolution? Let us know along with your thoughts, reactions, and experiences in the comments below. Don’t forget to share the article on social media if you enjoyed it, so your friends can get in on the conversation! 

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