How to Make Your Resolutions Stick

These five tips will help make your goals a reality.

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Each new year brings the return of two American traditions. First, there is the setting of New Year's Resolutions. This is an extensive tradition that ranges from the drunken half-promise during a post-midnight party to the sober goal-setting activity involving charts and graphs. The second tradition appears at the point, usually by the end of January, at which the resolutions have been forgotten or abandoned.

According to a recent study by Quirkology, only 12 percent of study participants, representative of the public at large, achieved the goals set forth by their resolutions by the end of the following year. That is a dismal success rate. Most resolutions are based on improvements in finances and health, and both types of goals are too important to maintain a high probability of failure.

If you made resolutions for the New Year or if you are still working on developing your goals, here are some tips to help invite success.

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1. Express your resolutions as goals. Resolutions tend to be vague: "I'll get in shape this year," or "I'll earn more money." These resolutions can be difficult to track accurately, and mapping your progress over time is a great motivator for continuing along the path. Business administrators and executives love talking about S.M.A.R.T. goals—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Even if you don't want to run your life like a business, thinking about these concepts when designing your resolutions will help you reduce the risk of failure.

If necessary, split the goal into several steps or milestones to help you measure your progress along the way. Don't forget to map and track your progress throughout the year and reward yourself at appropriate times.

2. Worry about only what you control. Two popular financial resolutions are to receive a promotion and to achieve a milestone net worth by the end of the year. These are S.M.A.R.T. goals, but they focus on certain things that are beyond an individual's control. While you can make yourself more likely to receive a promotion by working hard, taking extra responsibility, and showing your boss that you are a good candidate for a higher-level position, you can't control whether your supervisor offers you a position.

If the bulk of your net worth is invested in the stock market for long-term gains, inviting the risk of short-term volatility, you're not in a good position to predict your net worth within twelve months. If you want to set a net worth goal, you can find a way to set measurable goals that aren't affected by known variables like the stock market or interest rates.

3. Choose goals with personal meaning. Change is most successful when you deeply want to change or improve a specific area of your life. The more meaningful a goal is, the better the chance of attainment. If your weight has never been a problem for you, getting in shape may not have enough personal meaning for you to make the effort. If your father recently passed away due to lung cancer, you may now have the motivation you need to quit smoking.

4. Think about the rewards. In addition to creating measurable goals, think about what success will bring you. If you want to lose weight, list your goal with numbers, such as increasing your time spent in strenuous physical activity from 30 minutes to 4 hour a week. Then, focus on why you want to lose weight. Perhaps you want to be more attractive to the opposite sex. With your goals and an image of success in mind, you won't forget the benefits of your hard work.

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5. Make your goals public and ask for support. For some people, goals aren't real until they're expressed in words. It's easier to keep difficult goals to myself; if I fail, I'm the only one who knows and with selective memory I don't have to think about it ever again. If you make your goals public, failure might come with judgment. This could provide some motivation for anyone who is concerned about what other people may think.

You may share your goals with your family or a friend in private, and they can serve as personal motivators, helping and supporting you along the way. This personal touch is helpful for some. You could also choose to share your progress online and publicly, opening yourself up to a community of people who have similar goals and can provide strong support from afar. Having a support network is crucial in achieving your goals.

Most people may fail to keep their New Year's resolutions, but you don't have to fall into that statistic. Each new year is a great opportunity to review your life and decide where you could use some improvement. Let this be the year you make it happen without becoming a statistic.

Luke Landes writes for Consumerism Commentary, where he encourages discussions about money and consumer issues. Consumerism Commentary regularly tracks and reviews the best credit cards and other financial products.