New Year’s Day is a time when many people make resolutions. If you’ve read my book or my blog posts, you know that I’m a positive person. So, it’s with a bit of difficulty that I put in writing this negative point: If you’re like most people who make New Year’s resolutions, soon you will be struggling to keep them.

When I ask audiences, the top three New Year’s resolutions are always the same—to quit smoking, to lose weight, and to exercise more. Whether you want to do any or all of those three, or to make any other positive change in your life, the method that produces real, lasting change is to break down your goals into small pieces and then make those small changes over the course of the 21 days it takes to form a new habit.

Otherwise, you know how it goes—using exercise as an example—gym memberships spike in January and then those same gyms’ parking lots are empty by February.

If, instead, you make one small change every 21 days, or every month, or every six weeks, you can experience many positive changes this year, and an awesome number in the years ahead.

Why Celebrating Your Progress is Important

In addition to maintaining a running list of goals, instead of New Year’s resolutions, I strongly recommend that you celebrate the New Year by celebrating your progress from the past year.

Making time to regularly list positives in your life is a proven happiness strategy. (I post a reminder on Facebook to do so each week and if you “Like” the Six Simple Rules Facebook page, you’ll get the reminder each Saturday.)

Celebrating your progress is not only a good thing, it’s also an important thing. Most of us have a tendency to ruminate on the negative things in our lives—the failures, frustrations, and problems. Proactively celebrating your progress helps to balance out, or even better, to overpower, the negative thoughts.

While I encourage people to maintain a running list of goals—changes that you would like to make for a better life—I want to be sure that list is not a source of frustration. What I mean is this: Do look at your list of goals for inspiration. Do not look at the list and get frustrated by all that you haven’t done. Instead, regularly celebrate your progress, measuring yourself against where you were, rather than where you want to get to.

I’ll say it again: Measuring where you are against where you want to be is good for inspiration, but do not let it be a source of frustration. Measuring where you are against where you were is celebrating your progress.

Use the Worksheets

On this page you will find two worksheets that you can download and print to work on new habits.

The 21-Day New Habit Tracker worksheet will help you work on one goal at a time. When posted in a prominent location, it will help keep your goal top of mind.

The New Habits and Progress worksheet is used to create two lists: (1) the running list of habits you would like to adopt over 21-day periods and (2) habits you have adopted (to celebrate your progress.)

Make Your List from 2012

I made real, lasting change in many ways in 2012. Next week, I’m going to publish my 2012 progress. In the meantime, please make your own list. And please feel free to share some of that with your comments here…

Happy New Year and best regards for a wonderful 2013,

David

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