The time of year is rolling around when people start talking about new beginnings and New Years’ resolutions. The end of the year has always been a time for taking stock of the past and looking forward expectantly to the coming year. It’s a time for introspective musing, for contemplating the changes we want or need to make in an effort to become the ideal person we aspire to be.

Whether you decide to resolve to tame the bulge, quit smoking, or budget better here are a few tips to ensure you successfully stick to your commitment to yourself.

Write it down (and set reminders). Give your resolution some prime visual real estate. Whatever works for you – tape it to the fridge, set a reminder in your PDA, make a notation in your wall or electronic calendar, journal it in your diary or blog. Writing down your goals gives you a higher chance of success because things become real when they leap from your mind and onto something tangible and trackable, and you’re more likely to hold yourself accountable.

Determine a success indicator. Whether it’s losing 50 lbs. by the end of 2009, giving up smoking cold turkey, or cutting out excessive spending habits you should establish for yourself a point at which that goal has been partially or fully met. In sticking to your guns and following through it’s important to feel good about what you’re doing. It motivates and validates. So, reward yourself when you meet that goal.

Hint: Use some common sense and don’t cater the very behaviour you’re trying to modify as a part of the gratification. If your goal is to lose a certain amount of weight within a specific amount of time, avoid rewarding yourself with food. Those attempting to quit smoking should not involve gratification from smoking or its triggers in goal incentives. Recovering spendthrifts should stay away from buying something superfluous for self-affirmation.

Pamper yourself for that hard work without falling back on the old familiar crutch that you’re trying to isolate and cut out. Keeping yourself motivated with little incentives will help you to believe in yourself and visualize yourself reaching your target.

Stop talking and start doing. Regardless of what your resolution may be, it will never move into the realm of becoming a reality if all you ever do is talk or think about it without putting together a plan to follow through. Unless, that is, if your New Years’ resolution is to talk more. Plan!

Starting by deciding what your end vision is. Consider where you want to be and then work backwards to where you are today, taking into account all that you will need to accomplish while plotting manageable steps to your target. You’ll create an easy and non-daunting action plan to make your goals come into fruition.

Hint: Want to lose that bulge? Decide how you want to lose weight – gym membership, a Wii fit, walking/jogging around your neighbourhood, eating healthier, etc. Want to quit smoking? Talk to your doctor, look into stop smoking programs in your area, cut out and/or avoid smoking triggers (coffee, tea, alcohol) and stop carrying around your smoker’s paraphernalia. Want to save money? Consult a personal financial advisor, or take a look at your typical monthly spending habits and determine the non-essentials that you tend to splurge on.

Research any related costs and commit to a budget if necessary.

Tell people. In making changes to our lives we all need support from the family, friends and coworkers around us. The English poet John Donne wrote that “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”. Human beings are social beings that thrive on and in the presence of others; we do not flourish when isolated from others. In some way or another and in their own way those around you will keep you accountable, prompt you, and keep you in check when give them the opportunity to passively or actively participate in the journey to your desired life change(s).


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