With 2018 firmly behind us, most of us are having some introspective bouts of self-reflection and looking back on how we spent the year. Our self-audits usually include the stuff we liked about ourselves, the stuff we didn’t like and the stuff we downright hated. And hey man, there is nothing wrong with that. Hell, if you’re not finding room for improvement, it means you’re not digging deep enough.

But the best part of the New Year is that it doesn’t feel like cheating when we wipe the slate clean and start with a fresh outlook. People all over the world make New Year’s resolutions, and of course, as we all know, making them is the easy part; it’s keeping them that’s usually difficult. Research suggests that a mere fraction of the people who make New Year’s resolutions actually stick to them. The overwhelming majority ditch their resolve by February.

So, how can you actually stick to the awesome goals you’ve set for yourself this coming year? If you know how to set yourself up for success, it’s actually easier than you think:

Be Honest and Practical With Yourself

One of the biggest problems people have with sticking to their resolutions is that it’s very easy to lose sight of practicality and give in to hopes and dreams — even if they’re unrealistic.

Now, we also want to note that having lofty ambitions obviously isn’t something intrinsically bad. Like we said above, if you’re not finding room for improvement, you’re not looking deep enough. Just understand that while you’re finalizing your resolutions, making them too lofty to the point of being unrealistic will only make them more difficult to stick to. Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with setting incremental goals and going from there. In fact, that’s exactly what we recommend.

Don’t Be Vague—Set Hard Goals

Speaking of setting goals, if you want to make sure you keep to your resolutions, don’t be vague. One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is being a better person. There’s nothing wrong with it (everyone should always strive to be a better person, frankly), but the problem is that the goal is really immeasurable. “Better” is a very arbitrary concept and there’s also no real way to actually quantify your results.

But by resolving to do more of the things you think good people do—donating more money to charitable causes, participating in fundraisers, calling your parents more often, drinking booze less often, etc.—is an excellent strategy.

That strategy can be applied to every resolution. So long as you’re outlining hard and specific goals, measuring results is simple.

Seek Out Support

Going at things alone might work for some people, but finding the necessary support is a critical way to keep yourself in check and motivated to succeed in the New Year. Trying to stop smoking? There’s a group for that. Weight loss? Check out this sub-Reddit. Career Progress? There are a millions resources out there.

Whether it’s structured as meeting up with a local support group, finding a reliable forum or even just relying on the support of a close friend, there are people out there who want to see you achieve your goals and keep to your resolutions, even if you lose sight of what’s important.

Plus, being able to talk about your experiences, ask questions when they arise or even learn tips or tricks along the way are all critical pieces of progress. You may not see the value now, but trust us when we tell you that a good support system can make or break your resolution success.

Don’t Be Hard On Yourself If You Slip Up

Listen. Your resolution wouldn’t be a resolution if it was something you could just make happen at will. Whatever the goals you’ve set for yourself, don’t let momentary setbacks trip you up. The road to success never comes with a fresh pave.

But that’s not to say you shouldn’t do your very best to stick to the goals you’ve set, of course. Your failures should come with consequences, and for every step back you have to take along the way, you should be learning something that’s going to put you 10 steps forward on the next go-around. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re human, and humans make mistakes. Pick yourself up, and continue striving to hit your goals — despite setbacks.

Stay Focused, and Forget About Multi-Tasking

Maybe this past year was a real rough one and you’ve found several things you really, really want to improve on in the New Year. Don’t feel bad about it — we’ve all had those, “Shit, I really need to turn this flaming trash can into a temple” moments, too.

However, setting too many goals for yourself all at once can be overwhelming and problematic. Think of it like this: devoting yourself to too many New Year’s resolutions is like turning a simple, pleasant and perfectly adequate windowsill houseplant into a full-on garden. Gardens are great for horticulturalists, but you’re not one of those; you’re a business major. Or a firefighter. Hell, you can be a fucking dentist, if you’d like. The point is, you’ve gone and turned your life into a garden, but you’re not exactly Dr. GreenThumb.

Focus on one goal at a time. Put it in front of you, find an approach that works, and knock it out. When you’ve accomplished one goal, move on to another, and then another and then another after that. Don’t just start planting seeds everywhere.

Invest in Your Success

We know this sounds lame, but it’s true. Whether convenient to admit or not, humans are motivated by money. In fact, it’s one of the three main things that drives us to do anything (Spoiler: the other two are sex and power).

If you’ve been thinking about starting a new business, invest in some logo design work. New fitness goals? Grab a new pair of trainers. New career moves? Enroll in some night classes. The point is, whether it’s saving up for a new tent to do some traveling or picking up a $40 crockpot to bone up on your culinary prowess, you’ll be far more inclined to stick to something if you throw some money at it.

Plan Ahead, Pencil Them In and Give Your Resolutions Permanence

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This one is especially important if you’re one of those people who lives and dies by the calendar. Giving your resolutions a set time and place in your daily schedule—in your life—will give them a sense of permanence and importance that wouldn’t exist just by saying you want to do them.

It might sound foolish to those of us who aren’t big planners, but building a schedule around things like going to the gym, studying, meal prepping or whatever else you plan out will help ensure you do it. You’re blocking out time in your busy day to do these things, which will give you some kind of obligation to actually do them. Plus, if you don’t follow through and fail to get them done, you’ll at least be able to shame yourself into getting your ass in gear and not wasting anymore of your precious time. Hey, sometimes you gotta play a little dirty to get things done, right?

Next up; here's how to stop procrastinating online.

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