How to really keep your New Year’s resolutions, according to a psychologist

Lose 20 pounds. Wake up an hour earlier. Begin a meditation practice. Save $1,000 a month. January 1 is coming soon, and many people are busy planning their New Year’s resolutions. Try as they might though, an estimated 80% of people who make a New Year’s resolution will fail to keep it.

On the other hand, there are people who make resolutions, stick with them and succeed. How do they do it?

Pauline Wallin, PhD, psychologist and author of “Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior” advises people to develop a realistic plan, build in imperfections and focus on small victories along the way.

“When we make New Year’s resolutions, we tend to underestimate how uncomfortable it’s going to be,” said Wallin. “When the discomfort sets in that’s when we are at risk for not sticking to our resolutions. Your plan needs to include what you want to accomplish and how you will accomplish it as well as how you will deal with the predictable temptations, discomfort and setbacks.”

Wallin offers these additional tips for making resolutions stick:

  • Be sure your goal is motivated by something that you want for yourself, not to impress or please others.
  • Set up accountability mechanisms for yourself and possibly with someone else who is going through the same thing.
  • Be mindful of how you talk to yourself. Avoid using catastrophic language like “awful” or “horrible” when you’re faced with obstacles or setbacks.
  • Be kind to yourself, but firm in your expectations. You may need to adjust your expectations as you go along.

Reporters interested in interviewing Dr. Wallin can contact Kaitlin Luna, APA public affairs manager, at or (202) 336-5706.

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