There will always be a gap between the way we live our lives and the way we wish we lived our lives. And there’s nothing like the new year, with its promise of a fresh start, to entice us into making resolutions.

Just like last year, and the year before last, we set out with good intentions. But life gets in the way, and we soon abandon our goals. This year can be different. Science is showing us the profound ways our minds work so that we can harness the power to make lasting, satisfying changes in our lives.

Here are a few tips from science to help you keep your resolutions this year!

Be Realistic

First, target a couple of behaviors that you can realistically invest the time into changing.

Write It Down

In Write it Down Make It Happen, Klauser explains how powerful it is to physically write down a goal. Research found that subjects who listed the comparisons of a desired future, along with the negative consequences of the status quo, were more effective in meeting their goals.

If-Then Plan

Research shows that those with “If-then” plans are two to three times more likely to be successful keeping their resolutions. Once you’ve set your resolution, analyze the triggers that typically lead to failure and create a plan to combat them. For example, if you find yourself heading to the vending machine at 3 p.m., map out a battle plan to do something positive. Pack a healthy lunch with a protein-rich snack to grab when the urge to binge hits. Need some help? Here’s an if-then planning template to get you started.

Decision Fatigue

Big or small, the decisions of what to eat for breakfast, whether to like our friend’s social media post, what to wear, and what’s for dinner, are taxing. Over the course of the day, researchers have found these mini-decisions drain our willpower as the day wears on.

In the book Willpower, researchers discover that high-functioning people structured their lives so that they have fewer decisions to make. Steve Jobs wore black every day to minimize decisions. Any decision you make in advance indirectly gives you more willpower to help you keep your resolutions. Here are some strategies:

  • Pick a workout buddy and pre-plan a gym schedule.
  • Create a weekly meal plan and shop in advance. An app like Pepper Plate stores your recipes and adds the ingredients to your shopping list organized by category.
  • Instead of dressing like Steve Jobs, decide what you’ll wear the night before. You’ll be too tired to fuss over your choice, so you’ll be quicker. Or you could dress with 33 pieces for three months.
  • Turn off email notifications and schedule times to respond.

The great thing about habits is that once we’ve made them, whether good or bad, they become automatic and we no longer need to use our willpower to do them.

Don’t forget to resolve to sit down with your Cole Harrison agent at least twice a year to make sure your policies are up to date.

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