By Marie Spano, MS, RD/LD, CSCS, CSSD

New Year’s resolutions are a tradition. Every year millions of Americans make them, almost out of a feeling of obligation, yet many people spend little time actually figuring out which resolutions they are really serious about and then creating an action plan for success.

So, how can you stick with your resolutions this time around? First and foremost, realize that a resolution can be made any time of year. In fact, deciding months ahead of time what you plan on changing for the next New Year means you are just putting off today what you can do tomorrow. It’s like deciding on Thursday you are going to blow it out over the weekend and eat and drink everything in sight only to start a strict diet Monday. Though you should never wait to create a goal, each new year is special because it signifies a time for reflection, change and optimism. I suggest, go ahead and make your resolutions as long as during the year, you don’t subscribe to the words from the infamous Nike slogan “Yesterday you said Tomorrow.”

This time, figure out what you really want. Not what everyone else is doing but what goals you really want to achieve by the end of the year. Think big, but doable. Then, finally create an action plan, a GPS that steers you in the right direction. Every action plan should have the following components:

  • SMART goals – Specific, Achievable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Sensitive goals.
  • Checkpoints – If your goal is huge – say renovating most of your home, figure out what major steps you can take throughout the year to break this goal into less daunting mini goals.
  • Tracking – How will you track your progress? Is there someone you should be accountable to? Accountability can help ensure you stay on track when your motivation dips.  After all, someone is counting on you.
  • Rewards & Support – Some people thrive on a pat on the back or a reward for achievement. If you do better with a reward system, set one up and do something nice for yourself with each major milestone you achieve. Likewise, most of us do well with a good support system. Take the time now to figure out who you can count on for encouragement, advice and help along the way. After all, why do something alone when you can get a team of people to help?