Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

5 Ways to Make Your Resolutions Stick

I know what you’re thinking: another cheesy, goody-two-shoes article on how I can keep all those goals I’ve set going into 2010. If you abhor such articles (like 10 ways to de-clutter your bathroom), then keep on reading. I’m like you. Normal.


1. Bribe yourself.

A so-called parenting expert that I read last week claimed that bribing your kid to get him to do something was an example of irresponsible and ineffective parenting. I suspect that the same man sits in his quiet and tidy little office cranking out advice like that while either his wife or nanny is home changing diapers and doling out time-outs. Let’s face it. Bribing is one of the most effective tools to get anyone–your kid, your stubborn mother, your golden retriever, or yourself–to do something.


My running coach used this brilliant method to train me to run 18 miles. Before our run, he hid Jolly Ranchers along our route, every two miles, so he’d say to me when I wanted to stop, “In another half-mile, you get a treat! Come, you can do it!” And like a rat spotting a half-eaten hotdog, I’d run to the candy. You want to make sure you stick to your resolution? Bribe yourself along the road there: at the one-forth mark, one-half mark, and three-quarters mark.

2. Team up.

Think of the buddy system from Boy Scouts. Teaming up with someone means that you have to be accountable. You have to report to someone. Which brings down your percentage of cheating by 60 percent, or something like that. Especially if you’re a people-pleaser like me. You want to be good, and get an A, so make sure someone is passing out such reviews.


Also, there is power in numbers, which is why the pairing system is used in many different capacities today: in the workplace, to insure quality control and promote better morale; in twelve-step groups to foster support and mentorship; in exercise programs to get your butt outside on a dark, wintry morning when you’d rather enjoy coffee and sweet rolls with your walking partner.

3. Throw in a gimme.

This is to ensure on December 31 of next year, you will have succeeded at one goal. So make it an easy one: “Throw out my Christmas sweater with a sequenced reindeer,” “Pitch my golf-ball socks with two huge holes in the toes,” “Give away my Yanni CDs,” “Frame the family photo I had taken two summers ago.” You see where I’m going with this one? Heck, if you list a bunch of gimmes, then you’ll feel even better about yourself come next December.


4. Allow some backtracking.

I think most of us say “to hell with it,” around the third week in January because it takes that long for the brain to realize it is going to need a motherload of discipline to keep the resolution, and our goal isn’t so newish and cool anymore. Like last May, when I decided to eat according to the “Skinny Bitch” diet. I consumed hummus and celery for three weeks straight, feeling fantastic every time I fastened my loose jeans. Then I got really stick of hummus and celery … so sick of them that I still can’t eat them to this day.

We need to go in to our resolution knowing that we are very likely going to mess up in a few weeks, or maybe days, and that’s okay, because for every two steps backwards we make another half-step forward. Technically, then, we can categorize it as “progress.” Moreover, if we lose our black and white thinking, and adjust our vision to see more colors– situations and events in which we can’t just eat celery and hummus– then we’ll be able to hang onto to our resolutions until February, and maybe even June!


5. Wear some resolution bling.

Let me explain this one. It has something to do with my obsessive-compulsive self, and being raised by a lot of nuns who held a lot of rosaries and holy water and other faith objects. I need reminders–ideally 234 of them–to refresh me on goals, promises, and prayers I promised myself or recited in the morning with my coffee. And because tattoos are expensive and well, permanent, I go with jewelry, medals, and beads I can hang on to.

So, for example, my resolution this year is to worry less and trust God more, especially financially: to be a little more relaxed, in general, and to try to let the big guy upstairs deal with it before I take it from him, throwing a hissy fit. This is essentially the Serenity Prayer: to accept the things I can’t change, and to know the difference between the things that I can’t change and the things I can. So I wear a serenity prayer bracelet, each bead symbolizing part of the prayer. My key chain holds a large cross with the serenity prayer engraved on it, and it makes a jingling sound as I drive, to remind me that the pea-brained fellow in front of me who won’t let me around him is one thing I can’t change.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Harriett

    Thank you Therese,

    I had decided that I wasn’t going to make a New Year’s resolution this year because I never seem to follow through. Once I miss a few times of sticking to my resolution, I usually give up,until the next year. I have done this for years with good intentions.

    After reading your post I will try differently in 2012, because there are a lot of great things that I want to accomplish, and follow through with. Your advice is such a relief compared to other stuff that I have tried.

    Thank you and many blessings for the New Year 2012!


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nancy

    Dear Theresa,

    I just found your website in the Give Us This Day prayer book. I went to the site to find something encouraging for my husband and of course found something for me (oh the workings of the Lord!).

    Your #5 suggestion on resolutions is a dead ringer for the place I’m in right now. Let me briefly explain ~
    I just left a position at a Catholic Church on Nov 16th. I have worked there 5 years and the decision to leave has been festering for 2 years. I couldn’t seem to bring myself to leave because of “Catholic guilt.” But the situation I was in was eating at me and I truly feel the Lord answered my prayer and gave me the courage to walk away from a stressful situation. I am at much peace now because I made that decision except…the financial worries are beginning. It has been hard finding another job and I am not so sure that is the answer. My husband is a self-employed mason and has been a “one-man-band” for 30 years. He would like me to just help him out and not worry about finding another job. I would love to do that but I can’t stop thinking about the finances. A new car, retirement benefits, etc. So when I read #5 I thought that’s it, I need the Serenity Prayer daily or many times a day. I also like the passage Matthew 6:24-34…”consider the lilies of the field…” I have that bookmarked to read when I feel anxious, but I think I may get something with the serenity prayer on it…a little bling would do me some good.

    Thank you for the advise and God bless you in your work.


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment spareparts

    Hi Therese,

    I hope you have a very blessed, wonderful New Year.

    I like your suggestions very much, but they all posit that one makes resolutions in the first place, which I do not (I don’t dream anymore either). However, I could use a Venerable Matt Talbot medal…

  • Wendy Love

    What a delightful twist on an old adage, new year’s resolutions. I personally do not make any, at least not at New Year’s. I resolve to do lots of things throughout the year but avoid the official end of the year goals. Maybe I am a rebel or just like to be different, or maybe I don’t want to set myself up for probably failure and eventual depression. The holidays take a lot out of me and so I am not in the best frame of mind at New Year’s to be setting goals. But thanks for the neat ideas and delightful writing.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lynne

    My touchstone is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
    Aquinas and More Catholic Goods had a nice 15% off sale with free shipping so I bought a lovely Our Lady of Perpetual Help medal that I’ve had my eye on.
    I, too, was touched by the last paragraph in your Give Us This Day meditation for 12/30. “(Mary) turns to God to give her the strength to through her pain gracefully.”
    Blessings to you in the New Year.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lynne

    above comment should read:
    “Mary turns to God to give her the strength to move through her pain gracefully.”

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