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Story Student Success

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Michelle Baik

A CSU San Bernardino psychology professor says that if more of us followed one key piece of advice, we’d be a lot more successful in achieving our goals.

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Writing down your resolutions and the specific steps you'll take to achieve them is an effective way to reach your goals for 2017. Photo courtesy of CSU Fullerton


Every January, many of us go through the motions of setting resolutions with the best of intentions, only to end up breaking them just days—even hours—later.

The reasons we so often fail may be that we don't keep in mind something crucial, says Rick Addante, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at CSU San Bernardino​. "We're resolving to do something that isn't a habit for us," he says. "We are creatures of habit. If we haven't practiced something a lot, it's difficult to maintain."

That's why Dr. Addante recommends that instead of listing the goal we want to achieve, we should write down specific actions we can practice and make into habits. If we can stick to these, in time, we'll achieve the resolution.

According to Addante, we forget what we resolved to do simply because we revert back to our regular habits. "When we start to get busy, naturally we resort to our normal habits—[what] we are resolving not to do," he says.

So what can we do to make New Year's resolutions stick? Follow this advice from Addante:

  1. Write down your goals and the reasons why you want to reach them, and put the list where you'll see it often. "When things get tough, we forget why we made those resolutions," explains Addante. Trying to make yourself do an extra workout may be difficult, but remembering that you resolved to get fit for the sake of your family, for instance, can motivate you when you don't feel like exercising.
  2. Make yourself accountable. Making a pact with other people, or having a partner so you help each other reach a specific goal, can make it a lot easier to stick to those habits when motivation wanes. Your accountability can be digital, too, notes Addante, by using, say, a device that tracks what you eat if you're trying to get more fruits and vegetables or lose weight.
  3. Make a plan. Addante stresses that it's important to take some time to visualize exactly how you'll get to your end goal: "Don't just go out and resolve to get somewhere without making a roadmap first."