The ball has dropped, and the champagne bottle is empty -- it's the beginning of a new year, when you promise yourself to become a new and improved version of yourself. But before you roll out a laundry list of resolutions that fall by the wayside before Valentine's Day, New York-based life coach Mark Strong has a few tips to help you keep those goals for the next 365 days and beyond.
- Start small: Why make 10 resolutions, when it's easier to start with one or two? Strong suggests beginning the year with one resolution (perhaps cutting your weekly cigarette intake by one pack), and once that resolution becomes a regular habit, build to the next goal. "I think it's great to have one resolution in January, then add to it when you're feeling secure," he said.
- Be SMART: When choosing what resolutions to work on, Strong asks his clients to set up their goals using his SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-Oriented goal making. Therefore, a good resolution is not simply to just lose weight. Instead, setting out to lose 5 pounds by February 1 meets those criteria.
- Reward yourself: After you kick those five pounds to the curb, do something nice for yourself. Giving yourself small rewards for reasonably attainable tasks will keep you plugging away, Strong says. And if you have resolutions that take a longer course of time, Strong says it's important to reward and treat yourself regularly. "Even if you let yourself have one cheat day every once in a while, it'll make the overall effort worthwhile," he said.
- Stay motivated: A 2009 study at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada shows that a person's willpower depletes throughout the course of a stressful day. So, if you tend to have strenuous workdays, a trip to the gym might be a better morning task. And since we're on the subject of time, Strong says concretely scheduling tasks to achieve your goals can help you stay on track. It might seem silly to schedule something like creative time, but you'll thank yourself after you actually finish writing your memoir or populating that portfolio of watercolors you've been meaning to get to.
- Have a plan-B: "I always ask people to plan for what they'll do if they fall off the wagon," Strong said. "You know what could set you off course, so put together a plan. If you don't hit the gym for a week, consider hiring a personal trainer."