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5 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions (No Willpower Required)

Follow these five tips to reach your goals...finally!

December 31st, 2013

5 Ways to Keep Your New Years Resolutions (No Willpower Required)

How many times have you purchased a gym membership in January only to find that by February, your gym pass is mere decoration on your already cluttered keychain? 

You don’t need us to tell you that New Year’s resolutions rarely stick.

The most common resolutions are exactly the ones you might expect: drink less alcohol, exercise more, lose weight, get a better job, quit smoking, save money, stress less. If following them were fun or easy, they wouldn’t show up on your list year after disgruntled year.

But there’s a secret you didn’t know last year: willpower won’t work.

“The reason we tend to have the same resolutions every year is that we rely too heavily on willpower,” says Heidi Grant Halverson, Ph.D., social psychologist and author of “Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals.” “Somehow this is the year we’ll have the self-control not to eat sweets or to quit smoking. Willpower, even when you have a lot of it, is a fickle friend. It ebbs and flows throughout the day and is very much a limited resource.”

MORE: How to Change Your Bad Habits

By learning these simple tricks to take willpower out of the equation, you can check those ever-elusive goals off your to-do list once and for all.  

1. Start small. Optimism is great, but a too-ambitious goal will be in the trash by mid-January. “You need to ease into your resolutions,” says YouBeauty Psychology Advisor Art Markman, Ph.D., author of “Smart Thinking.” “If you’ve never exercised before, you probably shouldn’t plan on running a marathon by the summer.” Each goal you tackle should feel manageable.

Halverson recommends breaking a goal down into bite-size pieces and tackling them one at a time. “If you want to eat better, start by eliminating one thing from your diet,” she says. “Willpower is like a muscle that grows with use, so you’ll find that as you’re doing it, it gets easier and easier—it becomes a new habit.” When you feel like you’ve got that down pat, start in on the next step.

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