What is the Secret to Keeping Your Resolutions? Allow Imperfection.

We live life with a go big or go home expectation that just doesn’t fit when it comes to making changes. Resolutions are the opportunity to create new habits and new habits take time. If you can cut the perfectionist referee and trade in a sustainability expert, what you’re looking for is a growing trend towards the goal. So that somewhat “spotty” track record in the beginning may actually be a sign that you’re in the game for good — because you’ve been able to work toward your goal in real time — not exhaust yourself doing things perfectly for two weeks before realizing — I can’t do this anymore!

A Slip is Not a Slump
Research shows that it takes three weeks to establish a new habit. That’s not three weeks of perfect performance– that’s three weeks of ups and downs, hits and misses. So when that first missed day at the gym happens, don’t let the slip turn into a slump, the sun will come out tomorrow, and it’s your chance to get back on track.

Round Up, Not Down
You have a choice to see the glass half full or half empty. Let’s say you’ve only met your goal 50% of the time– or even 30%– you went to the gym two days, not four or five. You have a choice– you can say– I’ve only gone to the gym twice, or, I actually went to the gym twice! Narrate well. Build commitment.

Keep Score: Fairly
Don’t write down whether you hit your goal for the week or the month; give yourself credit each day. Write down your accomplishments on a calendar in bold colors. It might not look like much at first, but keep going. After a few weeks, a couple of red stars a week will convince you of the staying power of your goal.

Nothing Is Set in Stone:
We may feel that once we’ve set a resolution, we’re locked in. We either meet it or we don’t. Let yourself learn from experience when theory goes into practice. If you find that you’re not meeting your goals, ask yourself why: do you need to adjust your expectations, bring a buddy for support, or work in reminders or reinforcements for your effort? Any forward movement is better than none. Flexibility keeps you in the game.

Analyze This:
If you aren’t meeting your goals– look for the reasons why. Have you earmarked time that is dedicated to that activity? Is it convenient?

Use Reminders:
Sure we can try to keep a running to-do list in our heads, but better to set an alarm on your phone (with a funny sound). Sure, you might ignore the alert sometimes, but if it’s on daily– it takes the responsibility out of your hands to remember. It’s like a personal valet saying: Gym time now.


This is the second post about New Year’s Resolutions. Read the first post here.

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tamar chansky phd

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