One Big Tip to Make Your Resolutions Stick

’Tis the season to begin to consider those annual New Year’s resolutions. ’Tis the season to first evaluate whether such resolutions are a good idea or a bad one.

Become a Patron

Speaking personally, I am a believer in New Year’s resolutions. I believe our lives benefit when we take time to think, evaluate, and dream a little, to consider how we are doing and how we have been living, and to compare it to how we want and ought to live. The dawn of a new year gives us a fresh opportunity and a helpful context to create resolutions and to put them into action. I do not make resolutions every year, but often I do. I think this is one of those years.

Through success and failure I have learned a bit about New Year’s resolutions and want to share a tip— a two-part tip. It’s a simple but important one: Resolve them prayerfully and plan them carefully. This, I think, is a key to successful resolutions.

Resolve them prayerfully. December 31 is not the ideal time to come up with a list of resolutions, because the impulsive ones rarely stick. The best resolutions are the ones that come through thought and planning. Actually, the best ones are the ones you pray about. Instead of procrastinating until the very end of the year, begin to think and pray now about a bad habit you would like to break and new virtuous habit you would like to begin in its place. Or think and pray of a character trait you would like to emphasize or an activity you would like to begin. Speak to other people about these things. Take the whole process seriously and approach it deliberately. If a resolution is worth making, surely it’s worth praying about. Resolve prayerfully, not impulsively.

Plan them carefully. Once you have made your resolution, you need to invest a little effort in planning. You need to plan how and when you will take the actions that go along with the resolution. Sheer willpower is enough to begin a new thing or to take the first steps against a bad thing, but eventually you will need something more. You will need to form a habit. Willpower is both fickle and fleeting, but habits—habits are built (or broken) only over time. To build or break a habit you need some kind of discipline that will help you do, or not do, certain behaviors. So think carefully and plan how, when, and where you will build your habit.

If you resolve to get fit, actually plan the times and activities and put them on your calendar right now. If you resolve to put greater emphasis on personal devotions, decide today where you will do them and what the format will be. If you resolve to budget your money, select your budgeting tool now and schedule the times you will update it. Do you see it? Don’t only decide. Resolve them prayerfully and plan them carefully. And don’t just plan the first day, but the first thirty since that is roughly the time it takes to form a new habit.

So now, get evaluating, get thinking, get praying, get resolving, and get planning. What will you resolve for 2016?

(In my new book Do More Better I teach the value of having a system in your life. That system gives exactly the structure you need to build or break habits. Whether you use that system or another, it will go a long way to making you successful in your resolutions). I guess that’s just one more reason to read it!

Image credit: Shutterstock