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01/04/2018 11:37 EST | Updated 01/04/2018 11:37 EST

Smart Ways To Make Your New Year's Resolutions Stick

Be honest with yourself about how much a resolution really means to you: are you really willing to put in the effort among your other priorities?

A couple of years ago I made a New Year's resolution to lose weight, given that I was carrying around 10 pounds too many. So that January — like many others — I went on a diet and got a gym membership. I lasted two weeks.

The moment I decided to go on a diet, I was perpetually hungry and all I could think about was eating. I started to snack on junk food to ease the hunger pangs. And it turned out that going to the gym didn't really work for my schedule, so before I knew it I got lazy, gained weight and eventually stopped going altogether. That's the last time I ever made dieting a resolution.

According to a recent Ipsos Reid poll, nearly 68 per cent of Canadians look to the start of a new year as an opportunity to make a fresh start. Yet 73 per cent of those who make resolutions say they eventually break them. So where are we going wrong?

As someone who makes several yearly resolutions in my professional life, I figured a personal resolution would be relatively easy. But I realized that I needed to take a page from my professional management training and set SMART goals, which everyone can do too. When thinking about your New Year's resolutions, use the following guide to increase the chances that you'll successfully make them stick.

Specific

Depending on what you want to achieve, it's important to be specific about your goal. Ask yourself the "5W's" to make the goal as clear as possible. For example, rather than make a resolution to spend less, or save more money, set an actual amount that you'd like to put aside either monthly, or for the year, and then work your budget accordingly. If your resolution is to travel more, prioritize a destination and do your research on how much it will cost for the trip, travel insurance and any incidentals. That way, you'll have a target savings amount to work towards in order to make the trip a reality.

Measurable

The only way you'll know if you're moving the needle is if you have a baseline to measure against. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, or three inches, then weigh and measure yourself at the start and do it again at regular intervals to see how you are progressing. If your resolution is to have a more positive outlook on life, practice gratitude and set a number of positive thoughts you'd like to have daily.

By tracking your progress you'll know when you need to step it up, or when you're doing great. By balancing your successes with the times you fall short, you'll avoid getting discouraged and will be more motivated to continue towards your goal.

Achievable

While it's good to aim high, you also need to be realistic. People often want it all, but it may not be possible — at least not yet — or some elements may be out of your control. For example, you may resolve to get a big promotion at work. But do you have the necessary skills, personality traits or training to make that move? Who are you in competition with? Are there resources available to help you and is your timeline realistic? Whatever your goal, work in smaller increments and congratulate your achievements along the way.

Relevant

Be honest with yourself about how much a resolution really means to you. Are you really willing to put in the effort among your other priorities? Is the timing right? What's the real motivation? If your priority is socializing with friends over drinks, binge-watching TV shows on the couch or consistently grabbing take-out because you're too busy to cook healthy meals at home, your resolutions are bound to fizzle out until you find the internal discipline and desire to achieve them.

Timely

Set a timeline for completing your resolutions or meeting your goals to help keep you on point and organized. Make sure it's flexible enough to be realistic, but stringent enough that you don't lose motivation. Now is also the perfect time of year to map out dates on your calendar for reviewing important documents as they come up for renewal.

It may not be exciting, but being organized and productive is its own reward in many ways. Check insurance policies and health benefits to make sure there are no gaps in coverage, and meet with your financial advisor to discuss your goals. Review passport expiry dates, and research phone plans or credit cards, to make sure you're getting the best deal. Give yourself a deadline to accomplish each while breaking the task into more manageable pieces.

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In my case, I had been so focused on the end goal that I didn't give myself the best chance of success by taking time to identify my motivators, and being realistic about what I could achieve, and how. Also, I didn't take into account the lifestyle change that is required. Now, I consistently make healthier choices around eating, without completely denying myself of certain foods, and I focus on how I feel versus the number on the scale. I also have a trainer who comes to my home, and while I still don't like it when she shows up, I've been working out regularly ever since, now going on two years.

Follow these tips, and you'll have a much better shot at having the 2018 you want.

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