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13 Tricks for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions, from People Who Actually Did

Want this year to be the one where you actually keep those goals you set for yourself? Take it from these inspiring folks who managed to exceed their resolutions in past years.

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new years resolutionsSam Wordley

Keeping your resolutions

Setting goals for the start of a new year can be exciting, but the thrill quickly wears off after a few weeks. Find some inspiration from these folks that actually kept their New Year’s resolutions. Your goals might be new, but New Year’s resolutions aren’t. This is when the first New Year’s resolutions were made.

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Choose goals with emotional purpose

As we grow older and develop long-lasting, enduring friendships and relationships, we begin to realize the importance of quality over quantity. For dual licensed mental health professional and lifestyle expert Kryss Shane, BS, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW, this lesson was a vital one to make, inspiring her resolution to become more intentional about the people in her life. In an effort to weed out those who didn’t invest in her and put her focus on those who valued her, she made small, yet impactful strides throughout every month. “I disconnected those on social media who were harmful to me and I took more time to call, e-mail, and visit those who loved and appreciated me,” she shared. As she looks ahead to the starting line of a new lap around the sun, her load is lighter and her friendships stronger. To achieve the same results, Shane recommends choosing a resolution that holds an emotional purpose and checking-in with yourself frequently. “Add in benchmarks and rewards along the way so that there are moments to recognize the progress made on the resolution and to celebrate your hard work,” she adds. These are the resolutions that financial planners are making for the new year.

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Be your own greatest fan

While some professionals are fortunate to have a clear picture of their anticipated career path from day one of college, others take a less direct route. When 38-year-old wife, mother, stay-at-home mom, and author Krystle Lynch considered her hopes for 2017, she decided it was now or never to begin her master’s degree. After delaying for years, she’s now half-way through her program and intends to graduate in summer 2018. Her newfound confidence helped create the fodder for another resolution: compete in a beauty pageant for the first time since she was a teenager. Twelve months later she took home two crowns and a supercharged dedication to share her platform raising awareness of miscarriage and preterm birth.

Her advice to those who want to start procrastinating? Get started and be your own greatest fan. “Sometimes we don’t accomplish our resolutions because somewhere on the path we talk ourselves out of it. We may feel that we don’t have the resources, willpower, or determination to accomplish. We must hold ourselves accountable, with no excuses. We can become our own worst enemy. We must know that we are worth it, that we deserve to win in life,” she says.

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Sign up for something concrete

Somewhere on most people’s bucket lists—between visit Nepal and skydiving, say—you’ll find “finishing a marathon.” For PR account executive and aspiring writer Victor Miltiades, 26.2 miles was finally in sight for the new year. After years of talking about it, thinking about it, and dreaming about it, he completed this impressive fitness feat in April at the Boston Marathon. He says having a concrete task—like signing up for a race—helped him stay focused on his physical performance. That’s why he recommends taking a broad goal and turn it into an attainable one. “Don’t tell yourself ‘I want to learn an instrument;’ instead pick a couple songs you want to know and aim towards that. The same can be done for the classic goal of ‘get in shape.’ Pick a goal of lifting a certain weight, running a certain distance or becoming skilled in a sport. Hone in on the task instead of the larger goal so you don’t overwhelm yourself with the nebulous idea,” he says. Try these lucky New Year’s traditions from around the world to bring good fortune.

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Dare to dream

A few years ago, Chad Elliott found himself working until 10 or 11 p.m. most nights, which didn’t leave much room for him to join circles he was passionate about. In an effort to build friendships with like-minded folks, he resolved to start holding events through MeetUp.com. To make this a reality, he created three groups—one for improv, one for personal development, and one for storytelling. In addition to friends, he also realized he was a natural-born teacher. Today, he’s the founder of Seattle Improv Classes, where he not only instructs this form of acting but also teaches skills to build confidence and social ease.

If you have the desire to switch career paths or branch out into your passionate, Elliot says to give it a chance, even if it feels impossible. “At first it may seem like there’s nothing you can do, the path is too scary, too hard, or too dangerous. Start in the general direction of your dreams; and start in a way that’s as small, easy, and safe as you need it to be. That creates your momentum, and—just like a snowball rolling down a mountain can turn into a massive avalanche —your momentum will build and build. Soon, you’ll make so much progress that you’ll surprise yourself. But, to do that, you have to start now,” he says.

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Figure out the “why”

In the world of titles, Seth Lejeune is the proud owner of quite a few: entrepreneur, small business owner, and father. But a new one he wanted to add? Reader. Thanks to a commitment to a lifetime of learning, he wanted to get serious about his own self-education, so he vowed to read 50 books in a year, or in other words, about one book a week. To make this ambitious goal, given all of the other responsibilities in his life, he got started right away and gave much of his mental space to his resolution during the first 30 days, thanks to notes. He would write ‘TV is junk’ or ‘Leaders are readers’ in notebooks or in an e-mail, reminding himself to tune out of his electronics and into the pages of authors he admired.

The first month paved the path for the rest of the year, where he ultimately finished 61 books. His advice to anyone who is aiming for a very specific task is to focus on the reasons that define your ‘why.’

“People know what they need to do, but they spent far too much thought on ‘what’ they need to do in order to accomplish their goal, instead of the ‘why,'” he says. “The mind has an amazing way to take you where you want to go if it knows why it’s doing it. This takes some solitude and quiet time, but really think about the importance of the resolution and what you’ll feel like once it is accomplished. We are what we think about most. If we think to ourselves we are ‘not motivated’ or ‘lazy’ or we concentrate on past failures, our brain will find a way to make that our reality and we will have failed at yet another New Year’s resolution.”

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Limit your options to fail

Though entrepreneur Benjamin Ritter already knew how to play a musical instrument, he wanted to add another to his proficiencies, so he set his sights on the guitar. He wasn’t as jazzed about this particular resolution as he was for past ones, so he knew it would be important to make the goal tangible, by practicing for 15 minutes a day—no more, no less. And to pinpoint his attention, he also purchased a guitar and positioned it in a place where he’d catch a glimpse of it daily.

These two facts were essential to his success, and his best advice to others. “The more connected you feel the resolution the more likely you’ll continue it,” he says. “You want to make it so your resolution is the least amount of work possible. If it has to do with eating healthy only keep healthy food in the house, or if it’s going to the gym pick one that you can walk to or fall asleep in your workout clothes, so you’re ready to go in the morning when you wake up.” Check out these financial resolutions that can help you save money in 2020.

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You will slip up—but it’s no big deal

Jolie Manza, the owner of YogaKoh, felt impassioned about the amount of waste that’s filtered around the world and decided to make a difference. By removing all use of plastic in her life, she might not make a huge environmental footprint, but one that helps her feel impactful. To make this difficult cleansing possible, she made the background of her phone an ocean image from Bali, reminding her of why she cares for the planet. It also helped that she picked a cause specific to her interests. “Something has to mean enough to you that you are willing to go through the steps to make a change,” she says.

And of course, being forgiving was also a contributor to her ability to omit this waste. “Too often people that make a little slip up on their resolution get upset with themselves and then just forget the whole concept. Just assume that you will fall off track and few times and don’t get so down on yourself. The biggest part is recognizing that you slipped and then getting back on track,” she says.

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Make plans that require you to change

After the birth of her second son, entrepreneur Erica Landerson‘s abdominal muscles didn’t connect fully together, a common occurrence known as diastasis recti. Because this limited the ways she could be physically active, she resolved to repair this part of her body back to its natural, pre-baby state. This in itself wasn’t enough of a motivating factor to get her going, so she decided to set a long-term goal that would require her fitness levels to rise. Literally, by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

This strenuous travel and hiking experience was only possible through incremental goals. “If I had started too intense and I had set goals that were too lofty, then I would be more at risk of giving up before I achieved them,” she shared. To begin, she made an appointment with a postpartum physical therapist, then started walking with her boys, to then running with a stroller, to frequent visits to the gym. Each new step renewed her confidence and gave her the vibes she needed to continue—and eventually, reach the top of the highest mountain in Africa. If you want to celebrate instead of making resolutions, these are the best New Year’s Eve celebrations in every state. 

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Set daily resolutions…

After 36 years of making large, overarching, sweeping and often impossible-to-reach resolutions, certified nutritionists, trainer and fitness chef Ashley Walter Pettit decided to take another route: stop making diet-driven, drastic, and end-all-be-all ultimatums, and instead adopt a new mentality. She wanted to become a “day-to-day wake up and kick butt from morning to night, kind of person.” To do this, she made small changes and checked in with herself through mile-markers that she could implement into habits.

“I made a long list of smaller goals that were both extrinsic and intrinsic that I could check off as I achieved them and also still make a part of my daily life on ongoing basis, like having only one cup of coffee per day, get in 30 minutes of cardio an extra day every week, pay someone a compliment every day,” she explained. “It was maintainable because I set alerts to check in with myself weekly to make sure my list was getting smaller and to constantly remind myself to keep on top of all of my goals.”

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…Or weekly goals

With a jam-packed, overworked calendar as a publicist in the food industry, Jennalee McIvor, the president of Localite LA, knew transforming her health from the inside out was going to be a tall order. But because she wanted to feel better holistically, she decided to start with exercise and healthy eats, removing processed foods from her diet. The shift in her mindset didn’t just result in a quick-fix of weight loss, but rather, a new perspective on a lifestyle that’s lasted two years—and counting. Her renewed perspective has made her happier, especially since she spends more time eating good-for-you dishes with her husband and relies on accountability partners to keep her dedicated each week. “It’s helpful to have someone who encourages you to get out of bed every day at 5 a.m. to work out and enjoy that cup of coffee together before the madness of work kicks off at 9 a.m.,” she notes. “When you have weekly goals and not one huge goal you’re able to focus more on the little things, then the big things. And at that end, it’s the big goal you’ve finally achieved.” These are the resolutions nutritionists are making for the new year.

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But don’t forget the big picture

Ever since college a decade ago, Avi Loren Fox wanted to be an entrepreneur. But with the timing never aligning and her focus not fully focused on starting her own company, she never fulfilled this innate passion. That is, until one year, she decided she wasn’t just going to make a one-year resolution, but a five-year one. Since she knew most small businesses failed in these pivotal first years, she dug her heels in and made the commitment to really see if her idea had a fighting chance. “Short-term was fun, but long-term is more challenging, growthful, and rewarding. I gave myself the job, and I’m currently four years into my five-year goal,” she shared about her company, Wild Mantle. “It’s been an incredible journey so far, and I’m so glad I convinced myself to commit. I plan on growing this business much longer than five years because it definitely has legs.”

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The more specific, the better

After leaving her well-paying job as a clinical psychologist to pursue a full-time career as a travel blogger, Jessica Norah knew an increasing income from her online posting would serve her long-term goals. Not only would bringing in the cash from advertising and affiliate programs give her more time to travel, thus creating content for her site, but it would result in the flexibility she craved to share with her husband. A year later, she managed to double her passive income and did so by keeping trackable, business-oriented goals in mind. “It’s more effective to have a specific objective resolution that can be measured. Instead of stating the general goal of ‘saving money,’ you might say ‘putting aside at least $50 per paycheck into my savings account,'” she explains. This helped her see her progress, stay on track, and ultimately, become richer. You’ll want to keep these inspiring New Year’s resolutions.

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Anticipate temptation

On New Year’s day two years ago, Emily Taffel, the owner of Mugsy PR quit smoking cold turkey. Though not an easy task, she credits her success to developing habits she could maintain and measure. “I quit drinking until all the cravings associated with it were gone. I drank juice boxes a lot, took lots of walks and gained about 20 pounds, but I am much healthier,” she shares. Though these tangible items contributed to her ability to kick the habit for good, her best nugget of wisdom is to not obsess about your resolution too much. “The more pressure you put on yourself to do something, the more your brain wants to rebel. Wait until your body signals a craving—for food, to be lazy and not work out, to smoke—and then change a habit and give your mind and body something else to do or think about,” she suggests. Next, don’t miss these 13 life-changing resolutions you’ll want to keep forever.