The Care and Keeping of Resolutions

by Alyce Gilligan

10 ways to make your good intentions last this time

Sometime between cleaning the Christmas wrapping paper off your floor and gathering to watch a blinking orb descend into Times Square, there is an internal shift. December begins to feel heavy, stifling you with the weight of the year behind it. Whatever those months held, good or bad, you imagine it can’t compare with what awaits you after January 1. The new calendar year represents a fresh start, each blank date a gleaming opportunity for improvement. And naturally, you begin to mentally craft a version of yourself capable of seizing this newer and better year. Next December will be different. By next December, you’ll be a more exciting, intelligent and likable person—and, of course, in great shape.

Yes, everybody is good at making resolutions. Unfortunately, it’s the keeping of resolutions that actually counts—and that’s where most of us have difficulty.

This year, resolve to be better at your resolutions. Here are a few tips to make sure your good intentions stick around until 2012 closes (or the world ends).

1. Make well-rounded resolutions. There’s a reason people who work out often focus on a different muscle group each time they go to the gym. Progress limited to one area is lopsided and possibly damaging to the rest. When you draft your list of resolutions, find areas for improvement in your physical, spiritual, professional, personal and social life, even if it’s just something minor.

2. Less is more. Set a cap for your amount of resolutions. It’s OK if you don’t learn a new language, get out of debt, start writing a book, cut out sodas, visit Europe, bike every day and lead a small group all in the same year. Your list should be inspiring, not daunting. Be realistic about your time, money and abilities. By making diverse, meaningful and few resolutions, you limit the opportunities for failure and add more value to the goals you can commit to.

3. Think timely. What experiences are unique to 2012? Try to find goals that apply to them, and you’ll be more likely to achieve them within the time constraints. Given the election year ahead, perhaps you can resolve to be more informed and engaged in politics. Aim to read The Hobbit or The Hunger Games before their film counterpart reaches theaters. Be in better shape by the time you sit down to watch the London Olympics. Do you have a milestone awaiting you this year—graduation, marriage, new job, big move? Craft strategies that will enable you to reach it on time and with excellence…

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