I have been a serial resolution maker ever since I was a kid. I have become vegetarian more times than I can remember. I have started the Couch to 5K training program enough times to have run a marathon. And each time January rolls around, I keep making these pledges to better myself.
For the past couple years, I can honestly say I have been successful in keeping my resolutions. How? Let me let you in on a little secret: you just have to set the bar low enough.
Seriously, what I mean is do not set lofty goals, such as:
"Lose 25 pounds"
"Write the Great American Novel"
"Become a better person"
Instead, set smaller, process-oriented goals that take you toward the Big Goal. For example,
"Exercise three times a week"
"Get in the habit of writing every morning"
"Say one positive affirmation to someone each day"
It is important that your goals involve your choices and are not dependent on other people's reactions. And it's also helpful if the goals center around every day situations that you will have plenty of opportunity to practice... and succeed... and fail... and try again... and succeed more often. Last year around this time, I started the Couch-to-5K training program. Which was great, until I started getting busy and didn't have time to run three times a week. And when I missed one (or two) weeks, I had to step back a bit in the program. And when I went all summer without running at all, I had to start the darn thing all over again.
So why should you even listen to my advice if I can't even complete a basic fitness program?
Because the act of trying — repeated, long-term trying — takes you closer to your goal than if you had set yourself up for frustration and just quit altogether. I was really close to buying something I didn't need today. It was red and shiny, two qualities I absolutely cannot resist. It wasn't a pair of shoes, but a Le Creuset enameled steel stock pot, marked down quite appealingly. Yet, I really don't need a new stockpot. In my previous life, I might have bought it, with the understanding that I would return it if I later decided it was a bad idea. That mentality was one of the slippery slopes that led me to mindless spending. So, one of my "sub-goals" in my Year (Almost) Without Shopping is that I won't buy with the option of returning.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you I have yet to finish the training program, but I say that I have much better strength and endurance than I did before I started.