It’s that time of year again. Time to make your New Year’s resolution. Time for people to up their exercise, start new diets, attempt weight loss, quit smoking or cut back on alcohol.

For anyone who goes to the gym, swimming pool or community centre regularly you’ll know January is the busiest month of the year when waiting to get on the treadmill or rowing machine is the new norm. But come February, the crowds have thinned out and it’s back to the regular routine again. Is it because people have met their resolution, lost interest or just quit?

New Year’s resolutions are extremely popular with nearly 70% of people setting one. The most common ones deal with weight loss or increasing one’s exercise. That’s not surprising as many of us have put on a few pounds of weight over the holidays with all that tasty food, being less active and having a few more drinks than usual.

Despite their popularity, many of us struggle with keeping our resolutions. Up to 80% of resolutions fail, most of that occurring within a few weeks of January. Now as I’ve written before, failure is a part of success as long as we learn from our failures to adapt and approach the same problem in a different way. That being said, I’m sure a lot of us make the same resolution year after to year with not much success each time.

New Year's resolution for a new you

Take Time to Plan your New Year’s Resolution

For some people, their goal may be to lose extra weight put on during the holidays. Fair enough. If you only put on an extra 1-2 pounds during the holidays (and remember, that’s common so don’t beat yourself up over it), all it might take is getting back to your regular routine and in a few weeks the extra weight is gone. For others, the weight gain may have been higher and may take longer to come off, and may require a more conscious change in diet and activity levels.

The New Year also represents a time when you might wish for the coming to be a healthier than the previous one. And why not? That seems like an admirable goal. However, despite all of the great intentions, many of us make our resolutions haphazardly and fail to plan. And, as the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

So how can we make this year’s resolutions fail-proof, or at least have a better chance to succeed than before?

With planning and following a few guidelines. Yes, it takes time, but if you really want to make a change in your life, a couple of hours of planning isn’t much.

smart goal setting

Goal Setting 101

The first step is to have your New Year’s resolution, or goal defined. Do you want to be more active, lose weight or eat healthier? That’s a start, but what does it really mean? Is your goal specific enough to help guide you to success?

Setting a clear goal will provide you with the foundation to achieve your resolution. A great way  is to use the SMART principles; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Going through each of these steps will guide you to a resolution that’s right for you, feasible, has a timeline for completion and is clear enough that you know when you have achieved it. A SMART resolution may be something like: I want to exercise three times per week by the end of January.

Remember, this is your resolution, not anyone else’s, so don’t get caught up in trying to work into someone else’s resolution.

Now you have your SMART resolution, are you all set? Not quite. You need to also have a plan on how to go about tackling your resolution. Going to the gym three times a week sounds easy enough, but is it? Do you have a plan to fit in the time needed? Do you need to buy any workout gear? Similarly, if your goal is to lose weight, how are you going to do it? Exercise will help with weight loss, but only a tiny bit. Most of us will need to adjust our diet as well. In that case, do you need to change your shopping and/or cooking habits?

This all might seem overwhelming at first, but remember, changing one’s lifestyle isn’t easy. We may be used to a certain routine, set of friends or types of foods that has been part of us for 20 to 30 or more than 50 years. We can’t expect to change overnight, but change is definitely possible.

success with your New Year's resolution

Setting Yourself Up for Success

In some cases we may need to change our environment, meaning not going to events that might tempt us with straying from our resolution, or if we do go, having some sort of plan on how to deal with those temptations. It may be a bit of trial and error on how to manage our daily life and we may find that we relapse. That’s okay, and part of the process. If it does happen, take a look at what led to the relapse and make adjustments to your plan.

As you’re going about making your plan, remember to write it down. I find getting a calendar or using a spreadsheet to track my progress helps. For exercise, you can always use one of a variety of devices to track your exercise or download an app on your phone.

It can also be helpful to tell others of your resolution to help support you. There’s something about telling others about a goal that makes it more real and accountable. In some cases, such as when you’re around friends who smoke and you’re trying to quit, telling them is essential to the success of your goal. Likewise with your family or social group that you meet up for dinner each week. Let them know that you’re being more mindful of your diet so they’re not surprised or asking questions about why you’ve suddenly changed from a burger and fries person to a sandwich and salad one.

With these key principles in mind, you’ve just increased your chances of meeting your New Year’s resolution and having a happier and healthier year ahead. Happy New Year!

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