How many New Year’s resolutions have you kept … for more than a week? If you haven’t made it to a month milestone–let alone a year–maybe you’re skipping steps that help you create resolutions that last.
We talked to six people who have kept resolutions for two, three, and even 10 years. Here are their secrets for making resolutions with sticking power.
Their Resolutions Revolve Around Small Changes
Fred Schebesta, cofounder of the personal finance comparison website finder.com, has kept the same resolution for the past 10 years: make one improvement every day, such as listening to audio books or removing apps from his smartphone that don’t improve his efficiency. “Being small, it has been easy to stick to but pivotal in my personal development and the growth of my business,” he says. “I figured that if you improve by 1% everyday, you will improve by 365% over a year. The changes you can make in a year through one small improvement are huge.”
Schebesta puts the resolution at the forefront of each day. “I don’t start anything else until I have ticked that off,” he says. “This one resolution and daily habit has helped me grow revenue, improve company culture, and grow my business internationally.”
They Write Down The Resolution Every Day
Three years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Bregman made a New Year’s resolution to share valuable information and engage with his social media and website visitors in order to double his following. He believes he’s been successful because he writes his goal down every morning in his journal.
“I don’t believe that simply making a mental or written statement at the beginning of the calendar year is enough to keep your goals fresh and in front of you,” he says, adding that transforming a resolution into reality takes much more action than that.
“I have a phrase that I live by: ‘Add some zeros to it,'” he says. “There is not any one thing you can do that will be enough to get you the results you want. For example, working out at the gym one time isn’t going to help you lose a lot of weight. However, if you add some zeros to it, and repeat that one workout 100 times or 1,000 times, you’re going to get somewhere.”
Continuously reminding himself of what he wanted to accomplish has helped Bregman stay focused. “I’m proud to say that with only one month left to go in 2017, I’ve once again achieved all of my New Year’s resolutions,” he says. “I’ve hit almost 100,000 followers on my Facebook page and more than 350,000 people a week are consuming my videos, articles, and content.”
They Have A Strong “Why”
Eve Dawes, founder of Fitness by Eve, created a New Year’s resolution in 2012 that she’s kept for the past six years. “My resolution was to do all of my meal prep for the week in advance so that I’d eat healthily and have portion control,” she says. “It also has the added benefit of freeing up more time for work and life in general.”
Dawes says she’s kept her New Year’s resolution because her “why” is stronger than her “why not.” “List why you’re doing this and what you don’t like about your life right now so that you always have a reference point, a why, and can see your progress,” she suggests. “Then recognize potential barriers, and plan ways to overcome them before they happen.”
Their Resolutions Benefit Others
The Jim Carrey film Yes Man inspired Caleb Backe, marketing manager for Maple Holistics, to make a New Year resolution two years ago. In the movie, Carrey’s character is a bank loan clerk who routinely says “no” to customers. After promising to say “yes,” he grants loans to customers he previously would have declined, and later finds that the recipients were so grateful they met their payments and effectively made the bank richer.
“I decided to say ‘yes’ to my team whenever I could,” says Backe. “I would allow my team the most slack that I can possibly afford. It wasn’t that I was such a hardass before that, but it occurred to me that I needed to make an improvement in that area.”
Backe believes he’s kept his resolution because it has nothing to do with him. “Through a relatively small action, I am able to make their workplace that much more convenient and friendly,” he says. “People hear so many ‘no’s’ in life; it is a refreshing and welcomed change to hear ‘yes,’ specifically at the workplace.”
They Seek Accountability
Jennifer Snyder, founder of Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts, has consistently met at least 80% of her New Year’s resolutions since she started doing them, and she says her secret is accountability. Every Monday she meets with a group of seven other women business owners. “We primarily focus on weekly goals, which are typically small steps toward the large yearly goals,” she says.
Snyder also holds herself accountable with quarterly check-ins. “Those serve as reminders to get back on track when I haven’t made them a priority, or forgot them altogether,” she says.
They Make Failure Difficult
When Kate Hanley, author of How to Be a Better Person and personal development coach, made a resolution in 2016 to exercise more, she made good on her promise by getting a dog. “And now I’m pretty much forced to take a 20-30 minute walk at least twice a day,” she says, adding that it helps to do something that will not take a lot of effort and maybe even be embarrassing to wriggle out of.
“If you want to grow your business, put some money on the line and join a mastermind,” she says. “Or if you want to get in shape, sign up for a marathon in the fall.”
Why Do These Strategies Work?
People who are successful realize that resolutions are not a one-time change, says Josh Zerkel, director of global customer education and community for Evernote. “They understand that things won’t change with the flip of a switch, and take into account the idea that there is not one straight path forward,” he says. “Big goals–the type that people typically set as resolutions–are usually long-term projects or habit changes, and won’t happen overnight.”
People who make a long-term change stick with it because there’s something about that goal that speaks to the kind of person they want to be, says Hanley. “For example, your doctor may tell you to lose some weight and move a little more, but if you’re just following her directive you’ll be only too happy to rebel when given the chance,” she says. “But if you’ve decided you want to end up being the kind of grandparent who can get down on the floor and plays with the grandkids, you’ll be much more likely to choose to do something active on a regular basis.”
It also helps to practice forgiveness, adds Zerkel. “We’re bound to go off track from time to time, but then we get back on the horse and follow our plan,” he says. “Take time to think about what you may want to stop doing, or do more of. Resolutions aren’t about making a list, and those who find success setting and attaining their goals build in time to reflect.”