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Almost half of all Americans make a New Year's resolution, but most fail to meet their new goals. There are two main reasons why people don't stick to their resolutions: They set unreasonable goals, or they don't make a plan for reaching their goals.
Here are some practical tips for making New Year's resolutions and sticking with them.
Resolve to do something (or not do something) that is under your control. For example, resolving to get married this year is unrealistic, but resolving to be open to meeting new people is something you can do.
Many people make long lists of things they will do differently in the new year. But this often ends up in failure because it involves too much change. Limit yourself to one or two sincere, realistic resolutions.
Vague resolutions, like "I'm going to lose weight," are hard to keep. But a specific goal like "I'm going to lose five pounds by March 1," is easier to reach.
Resolving to do something is just the first step. The second step is deciding how you're going to do it. For example, if your goal is to quit smoking, decide whether you'll quit cold turkey or taper off, or whether you'll use a nicotine patch or medication. Identify your obstacles and where you'll turn for support when you are having a hard time not smoking. The same is true for losing weight, saving money, or giving up chocolate -- you need a plan.
Research shows that people who commit their goals to paper are much more likely to achieve them. Write your resolutions down, including how keeping this resolution will make a difference in your life. Then put your list in a prominent place, such as on your refrigerator, or use your electronic calendar for setting reminders. You might also download an app that will help you monitor your progress, such as an activity - tracker if you want to exercise more, or a calorie-counter if you'd like to lose weight.
Tell friends and family members about your resolutions and ask them to help you meet your goals.
Most New Year's resolutions require lifestyle changes, and these are never easy to make. A University of Washington study found that only 4 in 10 people stuck to their number one resolution on the first try. The rest had to keep working at it, and one in six people had to make more than six attempts to succeed. Be patient and don't be too hard on yourself if you occasionally slip up.