Be SMART: Making & Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

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Be SMART: Making & Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Once the over-indulgence of the holidays comes to an end and the calendar opens to a fresh year, it’s time for the age-old tradition of New Year’s resolutions.

Whether it’s more-books-less-Netflix, more-gym-less-Ben & Jerry’s or more-money-less Starbucks, everyone has some area of life that needs adding to or subtracting from. But how?

What needs to happen by next Dec. 31 so you can actually set a new New Year’s resolution instead of setting the same one you’ve been making for years?

Change the name.

It’s hard for us to imagine doing anything for an entire year. Looking at such a huge time frame can be intimidating and overwhelming.

It’s like when professors hand out syllabi at the beginning of the semester: completing all the homework and projects seems impossible.

But you don’t do all those tasks at once. You spread them out and little by little get them done in sections.

Maybe instead of New “Year’s” resolution, it would be better to set a New “Month’s” or even New “Week’s” resolution. God commands us to trust Him one day at a time. He’ll sustain us day to day, if we’re willing to trust Him.

Don’t get cynical.

 The words “New Year’s resolution” have become synonymous with words like “failure,” “unrealistic” and “never-going-to-happen.”

But if you start out mentally with one foot in and one foot out the door, then you’re doomed from the start.

It’s true that many resolution makers will not keep their resolutions. But as John Norcross, a psychologist at the University of Scranton, said in a New York Times article, making a resolution is half the battle.

“You are 10 times more likely to change by making a New Year’s resolution compared to non-resolvers with the identical goals and comparable motivation to change,” Norcross said.

So don’t let the cynic inside of you get you down. Sure, you might fail, but at least you’ve recognized you need to change and are taking steps to change.

But here’s how to change those good intentions into real results.

Be specific.

 “I’m going to watch less TV,” or “I’m going to go running more often,” are good starts, but they’re not specific enough goals.

Making goals as concrete as possible will make it more imaginable and therefore, more doable. Also, don’t focus just on the negative thing you’re cutting out.

By eating less junk food for instance, you’re adding feeling healthier, losing weight and having more energy.

Don’t let a few failures end your goal.

 It’s the New Year’s resolution cliché of starting off strong, missing a day here and there and then quitting altogether.

According to a British study in 2009, it takes 66 days of doing an activity to make it a habit. Other research says that number could be closer to 22 days—it really varies from person to person.

Either way, once something is a habit, it will be much less of a burden because it’s just a part of what you do. But you’ll never make something a habit if you give up after a few failures.

Also, for Christians it’s important to remember that sheer will power won’t be enough. Depending on the strength of the Spirit will save a lot of futile effort and frustration.

Let technology lend a hand.

 There’s a whole host of apps out there that can help you see your new goal all the way through to the end.

An interesting one is StickK.com. StickK uses “commitment contracts” to help users keep their resolutions.

You set up a goal and have a friend act as the “referee” to make sure you’re sticking to the goal, and if you don’t complete the goal, there are various penalties for failure.

For financial goals Mint.com is a great app that lets you easily see where your money is going, and it also allows you to set budgets to keep spending under control.

For individuals looking to be more consistent with devotions, the YouVersion Bible app also allows users to get daily push notifications with Bible verses.

For fitness goals there’s the obvious choice of apps like FitBit and JawBone that let you record and monitor your daily activity—a great way to see progress and get encouragement.