How to make your new year's resolutions stick

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Joanne Richard, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:23 PM ET

Don’t let your New Year’s resolution flop once again.

You start off with a sizzle, only to fizzle – like 92% of us, says productivity expert Brian Moran. That’s because when the pain of change comes calling, we choose comfort over discomfort and jump ship, right back into our bad habit.

“In general, people are not willing to pay the price of change. Change by its very nature is uncomfortable, and most people tend to choose pleasurable activities over pleasurable results,” says Moran, adding that people are more committed to their comfort than their resolution.

Plus some resolutions are just too big a leap, requiring just too much willpower and effort to keep it going, adds Moran. Add to that the time frame in which they are set - the mere thought of committing to a lifetime of change, or even just a year, can send you running for that drink or donut you promised to give up.

If you want to succeed, plan your goal in 12-week increments, says Moran and Michael Lennington, co-authors of 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months (Wiley).

“It is much more feasible to establish and keep a commitment for 12 weeks than to keep it for 12 months. At the end of the 12 weeks you reassess your commitments and begin again,” says Lennington.

Three-month commitments are more realistic in scope and doable than 365 days, chorus the leadership trainers at The Execution Company. Plus giving yourself too much time is likely to lead to procrastination. “It’s all too easy to procrastinate through January, February, March, and even longer… even when July and August roll around, there are still enough months left in the year that you don’t feel a real sense of urgency.

“Next thing you know, the holidays are almost upon you – and you’re still over your ideal weight, drinking too many sodas a day, working the same job, with less savings than you’d like,” says Moran.

Now 2014 is upon us and you’re contemplating the same resolution – and setting yourself up for defeat. By thinking in terms of a 12-week year, like businesses do, “you no longer have the luxury of putting off critical activities, thinking there is ‘plenty of time’ left to meet your goals,” says Moran. “When you have only 12 weeks, each week matters, each day matters, each moment matters. And the result is profound.”

According to psychologist Gary Foster, New Year’s resolutions are ineffective because people often set aspirational goals for themselves that focus on the desired end result, on their better self. “These all-encompassing unrealistic expectations come without a clear plan on how to achieve them, which makes it very difficult to appreciate progress and often leads to discouragement.

“It is that sentiment of constant struggle, with a disregard for smaller achievements that affects motivation and brings people to give up on their resolutions so quickly,” says Foster, behaviour change expert and co-chief scientific officer at Weight Watchers.

Adopting new habits is a matter of value proposition, of finding the right ratio of cost to benefit, adds Foster. “Let’s consider weight loss: If I were to follow a restrictive diet and could not eat the foods I like (cost), yet only lost a minimal amount of weight (benefit), long-term success would appear unlikely. On the other hand, if I experience success early on without feeling deprived in my food choices, I am much more likely to succeed.”

Set specific plans that are simple, achievable and can lead to short-term success, he advises.

Top resolutions: Courtesy of Michael Lennington, co-author of 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months (Wiley).

• Get fit/lose weight

• Stop smoking

• Get out of debt

• Spend more time with family & friends

• Get more organized

• Quit/reduce alcohol consumption


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