Does this sound familiar to you? You decide to eat healthy food, save money, get a better job, lose weight, get fit or quit smoking. You start on New Year’s Day or maybe January 2nd because New Year’s Day is a holiday. And you are amazing for at least two weeks to a month, maybe more, but then your enthusiasm begins to fade. Before you know it, you’ve forgotten about your resolution or you’re thinking, Oh, it’s too soon. Maybe next year. 

I am so familiar with this tune. I used to wonder what was wrong with me that I could never stick with my New Year’s resolutions. So this year I decided to do some research and see if I could find out what kept going wrong. 

I found some interesting statistics about New Year’s resolutions. According to an article in Forbes magazine, just 8% of people achieve their new year's resolutions. The article goes on to say that some estimates say that more than 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions whereas only 33% watch the Superbowl. What a surprise! 

Statistics go on to say that by the end of January a third of those who made resolutions will have broken them and by July more than half will have forgotten about them completely. Needless to say, I no longer feel alone in this dilemma. 

Then, there’s the science of willpower. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that is responsible for willpower. However, the prefrontal cortex has other jobs as well. It helps keep us focused, is in charge of short-term memory as well as solving abstract problems. Jonah Lehrer, in an article in the Wall Street Journal, said, “Willpower, like a bicep, can only exert itself so long before it gives out; it’s an extremely limited mental resource.” 

The prefrontal cortex is driven by glucose, so whatever your New Year’s resolution is, you need to plan it so that you don’t miss meals, because if you starve your brain, or you’ll have less chance of success. 

As you start on your journey toward your goal, remember that fear is probably inevitable when you plan on making changes. You can expect it. The fact is that it’s usually a good sign. Fear lets you know that you are on the right track, maybe even nearing your goal. Fear results in part from the unknown. What will happen if and when you get where you’re headed? Will it mean more responsibility? Will you be able to live up to the vision you have for yourself? You never know exactly how the changes you are making are going to turn out. It could be smooth sailing, but it could also be a lot more work than you expected. 

There you were, comfortable with the familiarity of your life, when you decided to shake it up. 

Whenever fearful or negative thoughts enter your head, remember the solid foundation on which your plan is based. If it’s based on your true beliefs and desires, it’s likely going to be for the greater good. And hard work or not, you can do this. 

Here are some simple strategies to help succeed with your resolutions in 2014: 

1) Keep your resolution short and simple

 We often get excited and make plans that are more elaborate than is practical. It’s easier to succeed when your goal isn’t too complicated and doesn’t have too many parts to it. Better to succeed at less rather than fail at more. 

2) Be specific with realistic and attainable goals

 Chances are you know yourself. Take a long look and pick a goal that you really can do if you put your mind to it. Make sure that your goals along the way are easy to achieve. Small, daily steps is the way to go. 

3) Write down your goal or goals and post them

    Post-it notes are great for this sort of thing. You can put them everywhere you’re likely to look often, like on the bathroom mirror, the fridge, and the closet door. Most of us need reminding. 

4) Create a plan for your success

    I believe in systems and in planning. Otherwise, I forget what the changes are that I really want to make. Change isn’t all that easy. It definitely takes a plan. For example, if one change is to go for a power walk first thing in the morning, try putting your sneakers by the door or by your bed where you’ll see them waiting for you. Plan when and how you’re going to do the steps to succeed with your resolution. 

5) Be accountable

    Tell your family or friends your plans so that they can support you. I remember when I announced I was writing a book. I did it so that I would be forced to work on it. As long as it was between me and myself, I didn’t feel enough pressure to be consistent. Once I went public, I got lots of support, and it really helped me to succeed. 


6) Affirmations

    Write an affirmation to say three times a day that talks about you as successfully working your plan. It’s a powerful and positive move to make. 

7) Daily intentions

    Every morning as you have your coffee, tea or breakfast, write an intention for the day, something you can do just for that day. An example would be “Today I am sending out three resumes.” 

8) Don’t give up

    Even if you’ve had a day where you slipped off your scheduled plan, don’t give up. Get right back on schedule as soon as you realize you’ve drifted. It’s not necessarily the end of your success. Remember, it’s very important to try not to beat yourself up. 

9) Imagine your success

    Every night when you get into bed, imagine you not smoking anymore, having lost the weight, having gotten that new job or whatever your goal is. Imagine how wonderful and proud of yourself you feel. 

10) Reward yourself regularly

    Every time you have a successful day, give yourself a small reward. Treat yourself to a bigger reward as you reach each small goal. If you lose weight or get a new job, buy a new outfit. If you are successful at running, get a running partner or join a running club. Dream about what you want and use these things as rewards for your hard work and success! 

The New Year is an opportunity to start again—a second chance. We all have dreams for ourselves, for the people we want to be. This is the time to begin—or continue–that journey.