It’s that time again. A new year is coming, resolutions are being made, and we know from experience many will be broken. Before we give up before we get started, let’s get positive. Resolve to make 2023 the year we make some lasting changes. 

A resolution is defined as a firm decision and the new year’s perceived “clean slate” has always seemed like a good time to make one. While resolutions may be affirmative like accomplishing a goal or learning a language, they’re often intended to rid a bad behavior like gossiping or eating too much sugar. 

For better results, having a plan can help. 

Start by naming a bad habit to eliminate. Just one. Even if you want to stop wasting time, eating mindlessly, watching too much TV, smoking, and overspending, pick only one. Taking on too much practically guarantees failure. Focusing on small, progressive, and achievable goals better sets you up for success.

Estimates for how long it takes to break a bad habit range from eighteen to 254 days. We don’t pick up a habit overnight and we don’t lose it that way either. Unfortunately, picking one up happens without effort; breaking a bad habit takes conscious, consistent effort.

For example, let’s say you want to stop snacking as a step toward adopting a more healthful diet. That’s a tough one and eliminating all in-between meal eating at once is probably too ambitious. Think about doing it in stages.

Choose two meals to not snack between. Or change the nature of one snack—think fruit instead of chips. Eliminate the before bed snack. Try to reduce sugar intake by paying attention to labels and seeing what foods contain hidden sugar. Always remember one deviation doesn’t destroy your progress or preclude long-term success. Enjoy the jelly doughnut and start over. 

Find meaningful, internal motivations. For example, if your bad habit increases health risk, imagining a longer life with family and friends might be the nudge you need. Cutting out snacking might mean dropping a few unwanted pounds, which will make clothes fit better and increase energy. We’re more likely to shed bad habits when we’re invested for our own reasons.

Practicing a positive new habit or behavior gets easier with time. Every day is progress. Even when it’s taking a little longer than we’d like, persistence will always get us where we want to go. Be patient. Changing a behavior may be something we work on for the rest of our lives.

Some surveys claim most people don’t stick with their New Year’s resolutions, while other studies claim that more than half considered themselves successful at sustaining resolutions after a year. Either way, people who make resolutions tend to be more optimistic about the future. 

Being optimistic can not only help us eliminate bad habits but inspire us to make positive changes as well, like saving money or traveling more. These take just as much commitment and discipline and start with being aware of and respecting our wants and needs and taking the time and effort required to grant them. Even positive change requires discomfort so the baby step approach works here, too. A new single person wanting to get back into dating may resolve to create an online profile, while someone who wants to save money might decide to cook a couple more meals a month at home. 

Change is hard; it’s so much easier to follow well-worn paths. But so often, if we can push past the discomfort, good comes from the effort. Patience, persistence, and commitment are the keys to improving our lives. 

Let’s all resolve to treat ourselves better in 2023! 


Judith A. Rucki is a public relations consultant and freelance writer.


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