Grand Master of New Year’s resolutions, Bridget Jones (yep, I’m talking about the book or film with the same name!) was a champion of setting goals that didn’t stick.

I’m sure that by reading the tips I’m sharing with you below (and acting on them!), she would have had a faaaaar better result with her resolutions. 🙂

Here are 7 tips to keeping your New Year's resolution for a happier 2020 #happinessify Click To Tweet

I know, we’re talking about tips for KEEPING your resolution. But it all starts before that, when actually articulating them…

Tip #1: Set an exciting goal

People typically tend to fall into any of these two groups:

  • They set ‘should’ goals – things they feel bad about and think they should change, either because of the society norm (“get more fit”) or because someone close to us tells it to do (“eat less”)
  • They set fun or pleasure goals (“go out more with friends”) that are surely cool but aren’t compelling enough to follow through

The problem with both is – there’s not enough motivation so people stop.

In fact, “research shows that 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolution by the 2nd week of February”, writes Tony Robbins in a social media post.

Don’t let it be you! 🙂

Identify your why behind your goal:

Why is this really important to you? What does it do for you?

Jot down the reasons and ask these questions again and again as you go deeper.

It’s like peeling an onion, going from layer to layer. 🙂

Tip #2: Make your goal specific

Probably you heard about SMART goals already – an acronym for creating goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable (or Relevant) and Timely.

And while I’m a big believer of making goals SMART, I also reckon that being specific is the most key characteristic of all.

That’s why so many vague goals fail, like “eat less” (what does it mean?), “get fit” (how does it manifest?), “loose weight (how much?).

Also, you want to define tangible sub-goals or steps to get there:

“Write 5 pages every day Monday to Friday” sounds more doable than “Write a book”.

With creating sub-goals you trick your mind into getting it done. Especially if they sound tangible and doable.

A New Year’s resolution I heard yesterday was – “reading two books a month”. While the number “two” in there makes it specific, will the person really hit that goal? Probably not. Simply, because the human brain cannot act on something that is not specific enough.

How will I get there?” is the question to ask.

By re-formulating it to “reading 10 pages a day” will make it thus easier for you to stick to your goal.

Tip #3: Create a visual representation of your resolution

Big minds know the importance of keeping an eye on our goals… on a daily basis.

So create a visual representation – in whichever way you prefer:

  • Create a vision board
  • Collate pictures from newspapers / magazines that speak to you or represent that goal
  • Write it out in a short sentence (use an affirmation)
  • Write a key word on your wall or fridge

Make sure you look at it every day. It will not come true just by looking at it (you still need to act), but it will help activate your brain to find solutions to get there. So keep a copy as a reminder in your wallet or on your bedside table.

Tony Robbins says, 80% of people give up on their New Year's resolution by the 2nd week of February. Read 7 tips to avoid that being you! #happinessify Click To Tweet

Tip #4: Identify the resources and tools you need

Set yourself up for success. Think about the tools you might need, your environment, people that might help you, mindset that will bring you closer to your goal…

If your resolution is linked to healthy eating, create a healthy environment – clear out all your cupboards, take off unhealthy items from your shopping list, ask family members to not buy unhealthy stuff or keep it in a place that is not accessible by you.

If you committed to going to de gym, buy the gym clothes right now, so nothing gets in the way of starting this new habit (then you cannot use the excuse “I’ll go there once I have gym clothes”).

Are there any useful apps that help you follow through?

And finally, what activities will you replace with the new activity?

Let’s face it, we only have 24 hours. The time to go to the gym 3 times a week can be added only if we take away that time from something else. What will that something else be – having less sleep (least optimal solution) or playing less internet games (better solution)?

Tip #5: Plan out and create new habits

I mean, really plan them out. Without an action plan you’ll be less likely to start. Here are a few tricks:

Start small. Research showed that people were more likely to start if they were requested to do only a baby step. A Zorro-circle, as happiness expert Shawn Achor puts it, cleaning up only a small room or edge of your desk versus doing a whole spring (winter) cleaning. Or the 1-minute exercise used by psychologist Robert Maurer, starting fitness with a 1-minute walking exercise in front of the TV versus turning your whole life upside down and fitting a new, time-intensive exercising program into your busy schedule.

Use the 20-second trick that I also talk about in the 28-day Happiness Challenge. Sometimes it just takes a small nudge to create a new habit. Such simple things as moving the batteries from your TV’s remote control into another room to stop watching TV as first thing after getting home, or putting your gym clothes on your bedside so you start exercising as first thing in the morning. Often, this 20-second barrier helps to stop a useless habit and on the contrary, taking away that 20-second barrier helps create new, empowering habits.

Define a triggering event. Psychologist Peter Gollwitzer conducted a study where he asked students to turn in an essay about how they spent Christmas Eve, 2 days after Christmas. The experiment group was additionally asked to pick a specific time and place upfront where they would write the report. Surprise, surprise – 71% of these students turned in the report in time, versus 32% of the control group participants. So thinking about the what and how upfront does matter!

Use piggybacking, which means linking the new habit to something you do already regularly. For instance, eating a fruit right after lunch. Or write your daily journal right after brushing your teeth.

Or you can try temptation bundling. This is a technique when you use something as a reward for a new activity you’d like to start doing, even if you don’t like it. For instance, reading a good book for half an hour after sending out all those daily “to-do” emails. Or watch 30-minutes TV after doing your daily gym session.

The main thing is – focus on following through for two months. According to research, after that it’s likely to become automatic. (Most people talk about 21 days to create a new habit. Read here about why this is a myth.)

Tip #6: Have an accountability partner

To keep you accountable –  that’s why coaching was invented, nothing new under the sun. 🙂

But what if you don’t want to invest into a coach?

Well, there are enough alternatives:

  • Join a related group (or create one)
  • Post on Facebook (and remember to announce your milestones too!)
  • Find an accountability buddy, preferably someone who has a similar goal
  • Ask a friend or your significant other to keep you accountable

Although research shows that announcing your intentions decreases the likelihood of getting things done, taking care of regular progress by the simple strategy of accountability definitely helps. 🙂

Tip #7: Get back on track when things go hard

Forming a new habit to keep your resolution will not be a simple “let’s-do-it-now-checked-off” type of action, just to be clear.

With taking on a new habit you move out of your comfort zone and you activate the rubber effect that pulls you back into the direction of your original actions. Because it feels so comfy… Because it’s reassuring… And because with time you re-evaluate if the change you set out to achieve is at all needed…

But just as with any rubber band, if you persist, over time it will be more elastic and it will cost you less and less effort to move it to the desired direction.

So just keep in mind that resistance hits in, as soon as you start implementing.

Make sure you don’t misinterpret it – resistance doesn’t mean it’s the wrong way, exactly the contrary… it’s the right way to go, it’s just there’s this fear of the unknown that manifests itself.

Here are some helping questions to prepare with in this stage:

  • How will you bounce back, when things go hard?
  • What are the expected challenges you might encounter and how will you overcome them?
  • What’s your plan to get back on track?
  • What’s your security margin to get to your goal?
  • What’s Plan B, in case Plan A doesn’t work?
  • How will you reconnect yourself to your why and remind yourself why you’re doing it after all?

Ready to creating great goals and following through on your resolutions?

Bridget Jones broke them on Day 1. The question is – how far will YOU get?

Now over to you: What’s your New Year’s resolution and how will you make it stick? Leave us a comment below.