Successful New Year's Resolutions

By Greg Go on 29 December 2006 (Updated 22 December 2009) 8 comments

Now that the Christmas festivities are over, the next order of business is the new year. That means resolutions.

Frankly, I'm tired of New Year's resolutions. I make them every year. I break them every year, often forgetting the resolutions by Martin Luther King day.

On the other hand, there are plenty of bad habits I'd like to get rid off before my next birthday in September. So here I am, finalizing my New Year's resolutions strategy. Let's see if we can break the losing streak in nought seven.

I have two lofty goals for 2007:

  • Get some exercise
  • Quit smoking

I agonized before typing those words. I'm an introvert, super lazy and smoke like a chimney. Trust me when I tell you I'm scared as hell sharing these resolutions. Given my track record of not finishing what I start, there's a good chance of failure.

But if I'm serious about growing as a person, not smelling like Uncle Joe's burnt ribs all the time, and not having to sit down every 10 feet, putting these resolutions out in public is the best thing I can do.

So here's the game plan...

Smokey's 8 sure fire tips for successful New Year's resolutions

(If you have tips to make New Year's resolutions more sure-firely successful, please share in the comments!)

1. Aim for something you can track

"Lose weight" or "get more exercise" are nice resolutions and all, but without specifics to focus on, they're doomed from the get go.

Can you aim for a number or other measurable goal? The more focused the resolution, the easier it is to succeed.

Instead of "be healthier", how about one of these more specific resolutions?

  • Take a 20 minute walk everyday after lunch.
  • Run a 7 minute mile.
  • Finish the company 10k in an hour.
  • Lose 20 pounds.

For the exercising resolution, my trackable goal is 120 days in the gym. I want to be generally healthier, get more exercise, and have more energy. Factoring in my schedule and overall laziness, an average of 3 times a week at the gym is a hard, but achievable goal.

For the quit smoking resolution, my trackable goal is to have 30 consecutive smoke free days within 3 months.

2. Set a deadline, the sooner the better

A deadline far off in the distance is quickly forgotten. Without a deadline, you may find yourself making the same resolutions year after year.

For my goal of exercising at least 3 days a week, I need to get 120 days in the gym in a whole year (365 days). Hmm, looking at that big 1-2-0 number is kinda scary and having a deadline so far away (Dec 31, 2007) makes it easy to ignore the resolution for just another day.

That really increases my chances of failure. I think I need to add a 3 month milestone of 30 days in the gym by April 1. Doesn't seem so hard now, and hopefully by April, getting some exercise has become an indispensable habit that I'll continue for the rest of the year and beyond.

3. Be accountable to someone you don't want to let down

Having to tell someone whose opinion you respect when you've succeeded (or failed) is a big incentive.

Remember that deadline? You can combine tips 2 and 3 into one "I finally accomplished a resolution!" party. Make that date at the beginning of the year!

For me, I'm being accountable to you, the Internet. I figure you, dear Internet, are the scariest person I can be accountable to. God help me.

4. Use the buddy system

The buddy system works for keeping us safe. It also works for keeping us motivated.

Find a friend who wants what you want. Both of you now have a fighting chance of keeping this year's resolution.

I have a buddy for both resolutions. There's plenty of people looking to quit smoking and/or get more exercise.

5. Do a 30 day challenge

I learned about the 30-day challenge from Steve Pavlina. It's a way to trick yourself into not being scared of the commitment. Steve says,

It seems too overwhelming to think about making a big change and sticking with it every day for the rest of your life when you’re still habituated to doing the opposite. The more you think about the change as something permanent, the more you stay put.

That summarizes how I feel about the quit smoking challenge. I love smoking. It's great after a meal. Or in the mornings with a soy latte and the New York Times. Trade that in for mood swings and cravings so strong I want to claw my eyes out? That's crazy talk.

I'm using the 30 day challenge to track the nicotine intake. To break it down into a manageable chunk. I'm not going to be smoke free every day, but 30 consecutive smoke free days within the first 3 months is doable. 1 month, 4 weeks, 30 days. No biggie.

6. Visualize the result

Why are you making this resolution? It's not because you suddenly hate chocolate and all things sugary. It's because you want to fit into those jeans. More than that, it's because you want the sweet ego-boosting adulation from all those around. Think about the sweet adulation, not the velvety sweetness of cheesecake.

For me, the goal is to not be out of breath walking from my car up the stairs to my apartment. That's not a very sexy goal to visualize, so I imagine myself chasing down a purse snatcher and being everybody's hero. And not coughing up a lung every morning.

7. Reward yourself

Ruth's Chris FiletGive yourself something awesome to look forward to.

If you're quitting smoking, calculate how much money you saved and splurge on yourself.

I spent roughly $700 on cigarettes a year. At the end of the year, I'm going to take that money and buy my friends a nice meal. (I seem to have Andrea's selfish need to be selfless.)

I'm picturing a fat, juicy Filet, medium rare, and a side of sweet potato casserole (with pecan crust) at Ruth's Chris (see picture).

8. Start right away

If you don't start on January 1, your chance of success drops from 74% to 37%. (source: Bureau of Fake Statistics) So start immediately!

I think starting on the 2nd is okay. We'll need a day off to recover from the hangover. Don't put it off too long, or you'll be making the same resolution next year.

I have a sneaking suspicion I have some kind of attention deficit disorder, though never formally diagnosed. If I put something off for a couple of days, forget about it. Seriously, just forget about it. It's gone forever.

If you need some ideas, here are the Top 10 New Year's Resolutions, according to 10 Million Resolutions.

  1. Lose Weight and Get in Better Physical Shape
  2. Stick to a Budget
  3. Debt Reduction
  4. Enjoy More Quality Time with Family & Friends
  5. Find My Soul Mate
  6. Quit Smoking
  7. Find a Better Job
  8. Learn Something New
  9. Volunteer and Help Others
  10. Get Organized

And from The Simpsons:

  • Homer - I resolve to lose 10 pounds, and then gain it back by Valentine's Day.
  • Marge - I resolve to finally learn how to make pancakes that don't stick to the pan. Bart helped me come up with that one.
  • Krusty - In 2007, I promise not to keep using the same old jokes Ive been telling since 1961.
  • Chief Wiggum - In the coming year, I resolve to learn how to work the safety on my gun.
  • Comic Book Guy - In 2007, I resolve to boldly go where I have never gone before out on a date with a woman.
  • Ned Flanders - I resolve to be pious and kind and gentle and - yippee, skippee - I already am! Happy 2007, everybody!

Still need more inspiration? Check out what Travis of Cultivate Greatness says about New Year's versus New LIFE resolutions. (Great blog full of inspirational material, by the way.)

What's your New Year's Life resolution?

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8 discussions

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Will Chen's picture

Hey, when is this 10K? Can I join too?

Fantastic post Smokey. Now that you shared this with the readers, we're all going to be keeping an eye on you to make sure you follow through.

Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

*sigh* That's what I'm afraid of.

Will Chen's picture

I'll call you everyday, twice on Sundays!

Andrea Karim's picture

Quitting smoking is tough - I have an uncle who's been making excuses for his failure to do so for years. That's my biggest flaw when it comes to getting stuff done - I've ALWAYS got an excuse.

Lynn Truong's picture

i've never smoked (anything...ever) but i've had cravings to smoke. so i stay away because i'm pretty sure i'd get hooked and never go back. good luck greg! you can dooooooo it!

Guest's picture

saw this one today and thought you might find it helpful.

how was day 1 on the road to quitting?

Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

Thanks for the link, May.  Day 1 was smokey.

Guest's picture

I know smoking is such a hard habit to break! I've tried everything (patch, gum, pills, etc) and I finally stumbled upon a great solution. Electronic cigarettes, yes, electronic cigarettes. I know it sounds strange, but they really do work! They supply nicotine in vapor form like a little nebulizer - no tar, no carcinogens, but all the nicotine. So you can keep smoking, only healthier and cheaper. Check out these sites for some more info: