5 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

January is named after Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings and transitions, and patron and protector of gates, doors, passages, endings and time. He was depicted with two faces so he could see where he was going and where he had been.

New beginnings — or as we like to call them every January 1, New Year’s resolutions — require change, commitment and dedication. Civilizations have been making (and breaking) resolutions since ancient Babylon. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of New Year’s resolutions end in failure. Beat the odds this year by following these tips.

Be specific

Too often, we make wishy-washy resolutions like these: I’m going to get my finances in order. I’m going to do some volunteer work. I’m going to work out more.

Sound familiar? Make your resolutions measurable, so that you know what you’re working toward and how you’re progressing.

Try resolutions like these: I’m going to pay off $5000 in credit card debt. I’m going to volunteer at my church two times per month. I’m going to the gym three times per week.

Share them — with the right people

Let your family, friends and coworkers know what you’re setting out to do. They can offer insights from their experiences, and their support can keep you focused and motivated. But even more important is the kind of peer pressure that they provide, whether consciously or not. We tend to imitate the people with whom we surround ourselves. So if your stated goal is to lose 20 pounds, hang out with friends who like to exercise — and put some distance between yourself and your buddy who wants to go to happy hour every night.

Keep it simple

Take a big, imposing goal and break it down into smaller, more achievable (yet challenging) steps that can be taken one at a time. Instead of resolving to, say, make a Hollywood blockbuster, start by taking a screenwriting class or acting lessons. When that’s finished, learn a video editing program.

Similarly, tackling several big goals simultaneously is a tall order. For example, if you want to write the great American novel, learn Italian and start your own candle-making business, each of those requires a lot of focus. Rather than devoting insufficient attention to each, start by devoting yourself to one. Achieve it, then move on to the next.

Be your own cheerleader

When you reach benchmarks toward your goal, pat yourself on the back. Let’s say you aren’t a runner, and your goal is to finish a marathon. After you complete your first half marathon, reward yourself with a spa day to soothe your aching muscles. You’re doing well, keep it going — nothing motivates like positive reinforcement.

Don’t get discouraged

Nobody’s perfect. We’ve all heard it a million times, yet so often it fails to sink in. We expect ourselves to be perfect in pursuit of our goals, and when we inevitably stumble, we throw our hands in the air and surrender. Nobody wants to drop the ball, but we all do — how you react is what matters. So you gave in to temptation? OK, figure out why you did that, and how you can avoid doing that next time — but don’t give up. Dust yourself off and continue to move forward toward your goal. Or as football coaches like to say, “Keep chopping wood.”

– P.J. Butland