Did you resolve to make a change this year? Whether your goal was to eat healthier, run a marathon, or finally start meditating, keep those shiny new resolutions and avoid backsliding with these proven strategies from Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits—to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life ($16; amazon.com).
1. Name it
Aiming to be fitter or healthier is a laudable goal, but what does that mean? "Choose a goal that is concrete and measurable and tied to an actual behavior," says Rubin. Examples: You want to be more active, so you’ll walk your dog every morning in the park. You want to eat better, so you’ll snack on fruit instead of chips.
2. Know yourself
Ask, "What kind of person am I, really?" If you’re not a morning person, don’t resolve to wake up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym before work—that approach is not only unrealistic, it’s going to fail fast. Rubin suggests recalling past successes to clue you in to what will work for you.
3. Plan for failure
Things are bound to go wrong along the way (you’ll attend a party and be surrounded by to-die-for cupcakes, say). The key is to anticipate those challenges and make an if-then plan, notes Rubin. For instance, tell yourself: "If there are cupcakes at this party, then I’ll take one, relish every bite and walk away."
4. Show yourself some love
"When you feel energized and cared for, it’s easier to resist temptation," says Rubin. So beyond basic self-care, make sure you’re regularly treating yourself in healthy (i.e., not food- or shopping related) ways: Do a crossword puzzle when you drink your coffee, or burn a scented candle.
5. Reframe it
People sometimes feel "done" when they achieve their goal, says Rubin. "Don’t think of it as a finish line. Consider it just one milestone out of many," she says. Think about how you can build on your original goal so you have a new target to shoot for—even before you reach the first one. That way, the good-for-you momentum will carry on