How To Make Commitments and Actually Stick With Them

How many times have you ever made a commitment that you didn’t stick with? Exercise more, eat healthier, get organized, learn a new skill — the list goes on. Around this time every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions for the coming year.

These resolutions stem from two motivations: intrinsic and extrinsic. When you’re intrinsically motivated, you’re motivated internally to do something. When you’re extrinsically motivated, you’re driven by something other than yourself pushing you to do something in hopes of a reward or in order to avoid a negative outcome. In this context, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can be viewed as the difference between what we truly want for ourselves versus what others or society want for us or tells us we should want. In order for your commitments to last in the long-term, you need to identify what is motivating you.

But while we consider what is motivating us and decide to make these commitments in late-December, according to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. We don’t want you to be part of that 80 percent, so here are five steps to help you make commitments and follow through on them throughout the coming year.

Mentally prepare for change

Changing established habits isn’t easy, so before you even begin to take on your New Year’s resolution, it’s necessary to prepare yourself for the coming challenge you’ll face. As you begin to start thinking about your goals for the year, it’s critical to stay positive, disciplined, and allow yourself some room for error. Find the intrinsic motivation that will drive you to work toward your goals. Beforehand, you should acknowledge there will be bumps in the road. Just prepare for these bumps and resolve to recover from any slip-ups — allow them to help you reset your course rather than stop you from reaching your goal.

Write It Down

Before you can start working toward your goal, you must figure out what your goal is. Writing down your goals will help you think about how you want to clearly and specifically define what you are trying to achieve. Studies show that those who write down their goals accomplish significantly more than those who don’t write down their goals.

For example, if your goal is to eat more plants, write it down and post that on your fridge. By putting your written out goals somewhere where you will see them every day, it will remind you of what you are working toward achieving. So grab some paper and a pen and get writing.

Start small

Make commitments that you can actually keep. If your goal is to exercise more consistently, then schedule three days as workout days rather than trying to work out six or seven days a week. Or if you are looking to eat healthier, don’t just flip your diet on its head on January 1st. Take it slow and start replacing unhealthy foods with healthier foods one at a time.

For example, instead of satisfying your sweet tooth with something high in sugar, opt for dark chocolate instead. Easing into change will be more natural for you to adapt to and will help you stick with the changes in the long run.

Keep it simple

Trying to stick with multiple goals at once will become overwhelming very quickly. Both healthy and unhealthy behaviors take time to develop, so replacing bad habits with good ones will take time. Don’t fall into the trap this is the time that you have to reassess everything in your life. 

For example, committing to start exercising more frequently, eating healthier, spending time meditating, and practicing better time management all at once is likely not sustainable in the long term. Instead, work on changing one thing at a time and try to master that one thing. Success in one positive change for the long term is better than struggling to keep up with all of your other goals. If you had to pick one, focus on behaviors that’ll intrinsically motivate you to get your mind or body healthier.

Celebrate Your Success

One of the most critical parts of goal-setting is celebrating your successes. As you progress toward the greater goal you established, you will be completing many smaller achievements along the way. When you do, you should acknowledge this and celebrate it. Set rewards for yourself when passing a benchmark or for when you achieve your ultimate goal. By setting short-term benchmarks and celebrating those successes along the way, you will be extrinsically motivating yourself to continue to work toward your greater goal.

By following these five tips, you are choosing to build the foundation that you need to stick with the commitments that you have laid out to achieve this year. Now go out, set some goals, and keep going— because you can achieve anything that you set your mind to.


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