Is it a goal, a resolution, or a complete waste of time? Despite overwhelming evidence to suggest that most New Year’s resolutions fail to stick, millions of people still make them in the hope that this year will be more successful. The reality is that it won’t be unless you change the process and try something different.

Creating a resolution is a great idea in principle. Setting out to change something for the better and improve an aspect of your personal or professional life is hugely worthwhile. It’s how you execute the plan that makes the difference between another failed attempt and a life-changing decision.

So, how exactly do you stick to your New Year goals? Firstly, you must ensure your goals reflect something that really matters. In other words, your goal, or resolution, must be about something in your life that is extremely important to you.

How important is the goal?

After writing down the goal, ask yourself the question; ‘Is it worth it to me?’

Achieving what you’ve set out requires a lot of effort, so it’s better to decide at the outset that it’s not worth the time rather than kidding yourself, and wasting weeks or months pursuing a goal you don’t have a strong commitment to.

A worthwhile goal should excite and motivate you, even as you visualise it and clarify exactly what it will be. This part is crucial – clarify the goal in simple and very specific terms.

‘Getting fit’ should become ‘walk 10k every week’ or ‘visit the gym for an hour, three times a week’. Make it specific, stretching but also realistic. Work in increments. If you managed to run 5k in one outing last year, aim for 10k this year.

Now, having turned a general resolution into a specific and meaningful goal, it’s all about your actions from 1st January onwards!

Sticking to the script

When it comes to sticking to your New Year’s resolutions, there are a few tips and tricks you can utilise to give yourself the best chance of success.

Firstly, write your goals down somewhere visible, so you read them a few times each day. The fridge, computer desktop or the wall in your workspace are all suitable places. You must make sure the goal, and the associated benefits of achieving it, stay fixed in the front of your mind.

Use words and pictures to keep your mind focussed and positive about what you are seeking to achieve. For example, if your goal in 2021 is to keep your email inbox at zero each night, constantly telling yourself that’s it’s impossible, unrealistic or that you lack the self-discipline needed to make it happen, is counter-productive.

Neuroscience calls it ‘internal remodelling’ – using positive words and pictures to align your mind with your intent. Writing down positive statements like ‘I handle my emails with focus and discipline, returning my inbox to empty at the end of each day’ will reinforce your actions and improve your chance of success. The words and pictures you use, have a powerful effect if you make it personal and believable.

Possibly one of the most important steps in helping you stick to your New Year goals, is telling someone else, so they can hold you accountable. Introducing someone else into the picture has a huge impact on your resilience. Peer accountability can work incredibly well if you tell someone who won’t be soft on you if you start slipping. Set a schedule of how and when you will update each other on your progress and the social desire to succeed will strengthen your resolve.

Finally, introduce some consequences if you fail to stick to your plan, but it’s important to ensure the repercussions matter so you take them seriously. For example, making a £10 charitable donation every time you slack might not have the desired effect, as you feel good about yourself when it happens. Instead, committing some cash to an organisation you despise will have a more powerful effect, as you do what you can to avoid it happening.

The same consequence principle can be applied with a commitment of your time or some other valuable resource.

Remember, if you are going to set a good resolution this year, make sure you clarify it into a motivating goal and take the extra steps outlined above to ensure a successful outcome. Each one will enhance your chances of 2021 becoming a life-changing year in one or more key areas of your life.