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New Year's Resolutions: Can You Make Them Stick?

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We are all guilty of it. I know we have every intention of trying to hit those New Year's resolutions. We write them down, sometimes we even follow through with them for the first few weeks of the new year, but suddenly we get busy, its just too hard or we simply just give up. You're not alone. We certainly had every intention of getting to the gym daily at 7 a.m., stop smoking cold turkey, spend more time with our loved ones, make some extra money in the coming year or even save some money for the future. This year will be different. You will make your resolution a mission. You can see yourself in your skinny jeans -- this year you're going to do it! Piece of cake, right? Wrong.

First, let's try making a commitment instead of a resolution. I like the word commitment better than resolution because it is a word I am already committed to. We commit to so many things, whether it's dinners, meetings, driving the morning carpool, helping a friend out, etc., and the list goes on. Somehow we make those commitments happen even though we may kick ourselves later, so why not do some committing to yourself?

First things first. What are you trying to accomplish, and what are you willing to do or give up in return in order to achieve it, and when do you want to achieve it by? We must know the "why" in order to succeed with our commitment. Once you know what that is, follow these steps for a knockout year.

1. Write down your goals and keep them with you at all times. Whether you keep it in your back pocket, your wallet or your handbag, writing your goals down and reading them three times a day is a critical step to ensure your success. If they're not written down, they're just dreams. Your dreams start to manifest the second you write them down.

2. Set small, realistic goals. Have reasonable ways of measuring those goals. Remind yourself that change doesn't happen overnight. If one of your goals is to fit in some fitness and you haven't worked out in ages, start with a 20-minute walk, five days a week and build up to a full hour each day over a few weeks. You can monitor your progress this way and pat yourself on the back every time you hit a new benchmark. You're more likely to succeed by being realistic, and less likely to quit before you start. If you move forward with your goal and hit some setbacks, don't throw in the towel. Pick yourself up and start again. Setbacks are not a sign of failure; they are opportunities to learn and start again.

3. Be consistent. Do something every day to get closer to hitting that new commitment. Even if you are short on time, make 15 minutes in order to make progress. Consistency creates new habits. Your goal will become a no-brainer when you turn it into a habit and make it a way of life.

4. Reward yourself along the way. If your goal was to lose 50 pounds and you have lost 10 pounds so far, buy something one size smaller than you are now, so you can wear it in a few weeks. Or create a scrapbook of what you want to buy when you reach your goal weight. If your goal is to make some extra money, you can cut out pictures of things you will want to do when you hit your goal. You'll have a greater likelihood of success if you give yourself little wins. Positive and visual reinforcement of your commitment makes it much easier to remember why you are doing it in the first place.

5. Set a time frame. Every goal has to have a time frame or it is just a dream. You must break down your goal and know what you have to do each day, each week, each month and each year in order to hit it. If you are trying to save an extra $500 a month, you will have to stop spending an average of $16.75 a day in things you don't need or do some extra work each day to make that amount. When you break it down each day, the goal is much easier to make a reality and it may prove to be much easier than you realized.

6. Think positively! This is the most important advice I can give you. If you don't believe in yourself then no one else will. You have heard it time and time again: "If you believe it, you can achieve it." Believe it or not, success begins with your thoughts. Positive thinking creates success. You will be surprised that your future will go forward, and not backwards. Life will get better and better as you welcome the positive.

Forget perfection. Set your sights on finishing that marathon, not on running it. If you compete to complete, you'll be a winner. Believe in yourself and don't look back -- 2012 is going to be "your" year, and it is just the beginning. There is nothing you can't accomplish, nothing you can't do. Today is the first day of your new life.

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