When thinking of making a New Year’s resolution, there are steps you should take to ensure you’re not one of those hopefuls who fail by February.

It’s all about planning, visualization and having the right mindset. Setting up how you’re going to achieve your goal gives you a sense of control and lessens the risk of lapses in behaviours you’re trying to establish.

Three main questions should be the cornerstones of your preparation, no matter what your resolution is:

  1. What will you be saying?
  2. What will you be seeing?
  3. What will you be doing?

Let’s apply those questions to one of the common resolutions people make – dropping weight. (Although you might be better off just aiming for a healthier lifestyle and a leaner body will be one of the ripple effects.)

What will you be saying?

Once you’ve decided to lose weight, for instance, you should ask yourself what you’ll be saying about this. The answers might be:

  • You’ll be telling people around you what your workout plans are
  • You’ll be telling people you’ll share healthy recipes
  • You’ll be telling yourself and others how good you feel about what you’re doing to reach your goal

What will you be seeing? 

The answers might be:

  • You’ll be seeing yourself making great choices in preparing food
  • You’ll be seeing yourself working out
  • You’ll be seeing yourself doing your workouts as planned

What will you be doing?

The answers to this match what you’ll be seeing.

  • You’ll be scheduling your workouts on a calendar
  • You’ll cook a new healthy recipe every Sunday or whichever day of the week works for you
  • You’ll fill half your plate with veggies at mealtimes
  • You’ll have a water bottle on your desk or in your purse, so you’ll stay hydrated throughout the day

If asking yourself these questions sounds a bit corny, think about the psychology behind it.

Mind control

Pretend for a second you’re having a conversation with someone and they mention they dreamed about pink elephants. What do you automatically do? Well, I bet as you just read that sentence an image of a pink elephant popped into your mind.

That power can be leveraged to achieving a New Year’s resolution or any goal. We ask ourselves these three questions because the answers stick in our minds. If they’re positive, they act as reinforcement for the behaviours we’re trying to change.

So, don’t say to yourself you’re not going to eat ‘bad’ food because then you’ll picture that food. Say to yourself that you’ll make healthy choices and eat wisely, and those images will come to mind.

Recognizing small wins

Fitness experts often talk about celebrating the small wins. I like to call them advantages.

With each achievement, you’re giving yourself an advantage to reaching a goal. One way to help do that is to keep a notebook by your bed. Before you go to sleep, write down what you were grateful for that day and what you accomplished. Seeing those positives brings a sense of achievement.

When you’re striving to eat healthier, keep a daily food journal. For example, draw two columns. In one, write down what you ate that was healthy. In the other, do the same thing for foods that weren’t great for your body. If the ‘good’ column has the majority of entries and there’s maybe only two items in the other column, that’s a success!

It also helps if you think of food as fuel for your body. Before you eat something, ask yourself if it’s fuel for your body. You’d be surprised how that helps you make healthier choices.

Just remember, though, that you can’t beat yourself up and make things so strict that you can’t help but break the rules. I like chocolate, wine and beer. That’s just part of life. Accept that you can enjoy those types of food and don’t make them a reward.

If you had a donut a co-worker brought in or a beer with buddies, don’t obsess about it. Instead, identify the positives you did that day. Maybe you got your walk in, ate an avocado or remembered to put a water bottle in your car. All of those are wins, focus on them!

It’s also important to not key on the number of pounds you’ve decided you want to lose. That’s the ‘what’ of the resolution process. You need to think about the ‘why.’ Do you want to lose 20 or 30 pounds so that your clothes will fit better, you’ll look better and you’ll feel better? Those targets can begin to happen before you hit that number, so recognize the small changes.

Remember, you’re trying to create key habits that lead to widespread change. That takes time so have a plan, outline the steps you need to take and have a positive mindset.