8 steps to keeping those New Year’s resolutions

So you’ve done it. After a reality check on doable resolutions you can totally keep, you went and set lofty goals to challenge yourself for 2018. Now how to accomplish it so that your resolutions don’t leave you feeling lacking?

We humans have contrasting abilities when it comes to keeping promises to ourselves. We can slack and give ourselves too many breaks, while alternately being too hard on ourselves when we fall short. Neither of those is good for making your big resolution stick.

Hurtling into another year convinced that turning the calendar means turning over a new leaf? Whether it's getting fit, quitting smoking, or changing your habits or mindset in myriad other ways, it’s time to learn once and for all to navigate those New Year’s Resolution twists, turns, bumps and byways to making a better you.

Lasting change follows a well-worn path, from the initial "Commit to it," all the way to the essential question, Keep It, Tweak It, or Fuck It?

Ready? Set. Go!

1. Commit

Promises to yourself can be the most difficult to keep. The key is to be realistic. Pick one goal, not several, and break it down into doable pieces. Start with an easier mini-step as Goal No. 1 by April, the next step by August, etc.

 

2. Fantasize

Visualization is a great tool. Daydream about how awesome life is with your new behavior, and be specific. What does it look and feel like? Again, be realistic and think small-and-growing.

 

3. Research

New You is worth an investment. Buy a book about your resolved area of interest, or splurge on a fun accessory to complement the new you. Then put it to good use: A headful of technique and cute workout gear aren’t exercise.

 

4. Roadblocks

Self-doubt is going to happen. You can and should admit it so you can plan for it. Be ready to nip negative thoughts in the bud and force yourself not to wallow in the mire.

 

5. Setback acceptance

If you were realistic, and you were because you’re listening, you knew this time would come. Don’t hate on yourself, but don’t ignore it either. Think it through, learn a lesson, and adjust. Vow to do just a little better next time. Perfect is the enemy of good.

 

6. Rewards

Now comes the fun part. Every time you resist a cigarette or forego dessert, or improve your performance at the gym, celebrate. Mindfully acknowledging success trades hard work with positive feelings. Mark every progress and enjoy it.

 

7. Force of Habit

Before your resolution is second nature, permanent habits are made by a series of decisions. Force it even when you don’t feel like it. Remind yourself that you’ll be glad you did it, and get off your ass. Then celebrate that you did.

 

8. Keep it, Tweak it, or Fuck It.

Eventually, new habits mean that you have internalized the behavior. Look how far you’ve come. Reassess if it’s working the way you wanted, needs adjustments, or truly not worth doing anymore. Think about your next goal! Return to "Commit" and repeat.

A version of this article originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue below: