12/30/2012 08:58 am ET Updated Feb 27, 2013

How to Make Resolutions You Can Keep

Tired of feeling like a failure every time you set (and break) your New Year's resolution? Yeah. Me too. That's why a few years ago, I came up with a kinder, more benevolent approach to this whole change deal. And, it worked.

Statistics tell us that most people give up on their resolutions within a couple of months. In my case, it usually took more like a couple of days. I was always good to go, er, right up until January 3, when I no longer felt like going to the gym. After all, it was cold and rainy and I was tired and there was always tomorrow.

But now, I have a practice that has helped me create lasting and positive change in my life without totally stressing me out. I don't even have to feel bad to succeed.

Want to know more about this more benevolent, compassionate way of achieving your goals? Here's the rundown.

Shift Your Focus

Start by shifting your focus to what is already working in your life. When you stop worrying about past failures, or ruminating on your flaws and all that you have to fix, you'll have more energy and motivation to put into your passions, skills and talents -- the things that will help you create the positive changes in your life. Reflect for a minute on what you have already achieved and the good things you've got going on, and then check out what's motivating you to make more changes.

Are there things you want to learn or change or improve for yourself? Or are you feeling pressured by someone else to make a shift? If you want to lose weight to impress your partner, that is a harder to goal to sustain than one that is motivated by your own inner desire to be healthier or feel better.

Don't do it for someone else, find something that's important to you personally, and go for it.
When you are clear about your focus and motivation, then go after the bigger idea. Pick a theme for 2013 rather than a single objective.

Go With a Theme

So many of our resolutions focus on a specific achievement -- to stop smoking, or lose weight, or make money -- when what we really want is the feeling that accomplishing those goals will provide.

We want the health, vitality, and confidence that come with losing weight. The health and sense of self-control that comes when we quit smoking. The security and freedom that money provides. We want to feel that stuff. When you find ways to experience those positive emotions now, you're more likely to create positive changes that will sustain them all year round.

Think about it this way: Instead of picking a goal to make $100,000 in 2013, go with a broader theme to create greater wealth or abundance in your life, and begin brainstorming all the ways you can do that.

If you want to lose weight, then put your focus on all the things you can do to nourish and strengthen your body -- rather than how many pounds you need to lose. Then do things -- big or small -- every day that nourish your body.

Celebrate even the smallest steps you take each day to live close to your theme. Did you walk around the block? Then, yippee, you are doing good things for your body and living your lifestyle theme of better health. Get excited when you come up with a unique way to save or make money, or grow your assets, because you are living with the theme of abundance. Cheer for any moment that moves you closer to the larger theme you are creating for your life.

When you take time to notice and appreciate the steps you are taking to stay true to your theme, you will begin creating new beliefs that will help seed that success. Instead of a lazy, unhealthy person, for example, you are now a person that makes healthy choices for yourself. With that belief more good things are bound to happen.

Here are a few other tips for making lasting change in the year ahead:

1. Be persistent -- do something to create the feeling of success around your goal every day. This is about creating a lifestyle, a process to help you make the change you desire, so each day, do something (or several things) with that in mind. These can be small, five-minute things -- but do them. Then, when you do make the money or lose the weight, you are more apt to keep the weight off and hold onto your income because you've established a sustainable practice rather than simply focusing on a single outcome.

2. Be creative and have fun. There are lots of ways to create a healthy body, or more money, or a happier life. Get creative, be open to new ideas and approaches for whatever it is you want to create, and the process will be filled with possibility rather than problems.

3. Be imperfect. There will be moments, when you screw it up completely. When you revert to your old ways, to your bad habits. When you eat a slice of cake -- or five. Pay attention to those moments, they provide important information that can ultimately help us succeed. For example, if you choose the cake rather than the carrot sticks, notice why. Perhaps, you are celebrating a birthday and the cake was a conscious choice. Or maybe you wolfed down a piece hardly tasting it, and you realize it was an emotional response to a bad day at the office. Those things can be revealing. The emotional eating provides information that can inspire you to deal with the source of the struggle, instead of continuing down the path of stress and bad eating. Whatever shows up is here to serve you.

No matter, take it easy on yourself. You don't have to be 100 percent to be successful. And when the setbacks come up -- and they will -- smile, offer yourself a little dose of compassion, and then take a tiny, itty-bitty baby step back into alignment with your life theme for the year.

This more benevolent approach to resolutions is about creating a lifestyle that you desire rather than achieving a single goal. Though you will achieve many goals in the process, you will also build daily routines that you can keep up and a life that you want to live.

Portions of this post, also written by Polly Campbell, originally appeared at

For more by Polly Campbell, click here.

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