THE BLOG
01/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Ways to Succeed at New Year's Resolutions

I am often asked why so many people don't change and don't reach their goals in the New Year. Here are my top reasons why people fail and my very best advice for beating the odds. These are all tips I have used personally and have recommended to folks who have gone on to make all the changes they ever wanted! Give it a try.

1. Don't make any New Year's resolutions on January 1st.

Actually, don't even make them in the first two weeks of the year. Most people I've met or interviewed who have succeeded at a change never started on Jan 1st. This is the worst time to set goals, when you're fighting with the memory of failing at previous resolutions. Plus, it's right after the holidays, you're probably still eating unhealthy food, the weather is bad and you have to go back to the daily grind at work. Be on the look out for that feeling where you say to yourself, "This is a change I want to do, not something I have to do." You'll know when the time is right.

2. Give yourself twice as much time to get to there.

We all overestimate how much we will change in January and when we can't do it, we give up. Then we underestimate how much we could change in three, six or nine months and fail to make the effort. If you make your overall goal more important than the timing of your goal, you will succeed.

3. Find someone who has already achieved a similar goal, find out what worked and make a plan.
You need information to find the pathway to success. Don't try to do this alone. You need a plan. People who have achieved a similar goal to yours have that knowledge, and often want to help someone else in the same position. Don't be shy. Ask for guidance.

4. Focus on one or two goals at a time.

When you have five things you want to change in your life, nothing will change. When you constantly know the two things you want, your decisions and actions associated with those two things are much clearer. Clarity is the key to success. Your brain is much more effective when it only has one or two things to focus on at all times. Ask yourself: What is the one thing that would make me really happy if it happened this year?

5. Choose a word of the year.

It could be an emotion such as patience or faith. It could be a word, such as "yes," saying yes to things even when those things scare you. It could be a focus, such as "book," if your goal is to write that great novel, or "debt-free" if you want to get your finances in order. Think of this word as your mantra--a word that reminds you of your goals and motivates you to reach them.

6. Choose an overall theme for the year.

This is an intention that touches all aspects of your life and can last all year. For example, your theme could be "put family first" if you usually put work first, or "put health first" if it's time to start taking care of yourself. You could also use "enjoy being my age" or "be honest." Whatever it is, you should feel comfortable repeating it to yourself. This is the filter with which you then approach your day.

7. Make two lists: One of things you want to create, the other of things you want to give.
This has no timeline on it. It's fine if it takes all year to complete. This is a very different way to look at just getting something done this year. It taps into your creative energy, most powerful energy you have. Also, it taps into your giving energy, which deep down we all want to feel we are giving and contributing to something that has meaning. When the creating and giving are in balance, things start to happen for you.

8. Commit to helping someone else reach a goal.

We do so much more for other people than we do for ourselves. Ask a friend or family member what goal he or she wants to achieve this year, and then tell this person you will help him or her to reach it. This is very rewarding and works so much better than trying to go at it alone.

9. Commit to always using the Change GPS.

A GPS navigation system in your car only cares about two questions. Where are you now, and where do you want to go? At any moment, any day, ask yourself these two questions: Where am I now? Where do I want to go? Resolutions and goals are daily commitments, not something you make once at the beginning of the year. Every day is another chance to get closer. Remember, a GPS doesn't beat you up for mistakes you did yesterday. It gives you a clean slate every time.

10. Every small step, decision or action counts and should be noticed.

Don't postpone celebrating until you've reached your goal. Every time you make a positive step in the right direction, acknowledge yourself. Your brain needs to know it's doing something right.

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