Harvey Mackay: How to make New Year's resolutions you'll keep

It is New Year’s Eve and Charlie Brown says to Lucy: “Next year I am going to be a changed person.”

“That’s a laugh,” says Lucy sarcastically.

“I mean it,” says Charlie, “I’m going to be strong and firm.”

“Forget it,” says Lucy. “You’ll always be wishy-washy.”

Charlie Brown offers a compromise: “I’ll be wishy one day and washy the next!”

Like Charlie Brown, most of us set New Year’s resolutions that are a little vague — lose some weight, spend more time with family and friends, quit smoking, quit drinking, enjoy life more, get out of debt, help others, get organized and on and on.

Just think, if everyone kept their resolutions, the world would be a lot different: We’d have healthier people who would show up for work on time, smoke and drink less, and be more organized.

Why don’t resolutions work? There are lots of reasons. Resolutions need to be specific, attainable and personal. They need to come from your heart.

And here’s a tip — the fewer resolutions you have, the better. Too many changes at once, no matter how well-intentioned, become burdensome and confusing.

What often happens is that people set a goal or resolution and then they falter and just want to give up. That’s understandable. Don’t cave in. Just start up again. Give yourself a new incentive.

When I make a New Year’s resolution, I tell other people so it puts pressure on me to stick with it. I’m also a big believer in rewarding myself when I succeed or ­accomplish something.

This is a new year. It’s a fresh start. There will never be a better time to try something new. Maybe you want to start a blog, research your family history, learn first aid or start running. How about you just want to forgive someone? Or decide to worry less? Whatever you decide, make sure you can actually accomplish it. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

As author and minister Charles M. Sheldon said, “Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.”

Maybe this year you want to do something different. Forget the boring, routine promises. Try resolving to be more creative in 2014 with some of these suggestions:

• Keep a journal. Spend a few minutes every day or so writing down your thoughts, feelings, dreams and ambitions. Record positive events, quotes and experiences.

• Read more. Vary your reading habits and explore different topics. If you usually read novels, try a biography. If you read only history, try a book on modern-day ­science. Read a good book every month if possible. You’ll exercise your mind.

• Learn something new. Take a class in something unrelated to your job or your usual hobbies. Mastering new skills can refresh your ­outlook on life.

• Meet new people. Make a conscious effort to make new friends or professional contacts this year. The more people you know, the better equipped you are to learn and grow.

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