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How to make a 2017 resolution you won’t give up on before February

New Year’s resolutions are made with good intentions every year, only to be broken within weeks or just days. But psychologists in New Jersey say there are ways to successfully fulfill promises made for 2017.

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(Christy Thompson, ThinkStock)

Making promises stick starts with making attainable and realistic resolutions, says Dr. Anthony Tasso in Morris County, chairman of the Psychology Department at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

“Often, when New Year’s resolutions fail, or people struggle to adhere to them, they make these lofty, kind of very grand resolutions that consciously or unconsciously have a way of setting them for failure,” said Tasso.

Tasso encourages individuals to focus on the process of working toward the resolution as opposed to simply the outcome.

“Most New Year’s resolutions aren’t going to happen in one shot. They’re going to be over the course of weeks, months, or even the entire year,” Tasso said.

Tasso used the example of losing weight. Instead of making a promise to go the gym five days a week, he suggests allowing some wiggle room to avoid setting one’s self up for failure.

“I’m going to make a concerted effort to get to the gym more frequently. My goal is five times a week. However, if I only get there twice one week or three times another week, I’m still going to see that as progress in me going to the gym more than I had previously gone, but trying to get to the mark of five days a week,” he said.

Focusing too much on the outcome without being able to have measurable steps also is a key reason why resolutions end up failing, Tasso said. He used the example of wanting to become more organized at work, but giving up on a messy desk after having a few busy days.

“Just because you hit a couple of stutter steps or stumbled along the way doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel,” Tasso said.

Resolutions can work best if a person comes up with a couple of things they want to focus on, such as losing weight, becoming more organized and being more social, according to Tasso.

“This way, if they’re struggling in one area, they can still focus on the other areas and try to gain some success.”

When deciding to make a resolution, psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps in Somerset County suggests doing it because you are ready to commit, not just because it is a new year and it sounds good.

Then you can be specific, realistic and make a plan, she said. If losing 20 pounds is the goal, she points out a more realistic approach would be to aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds a week.

“Anytime you want to make a change, it’s difficult. There will be setbacks … know that’s part of being human, and have compassion for yourself when it happens so that you can get right back to your plan,” Becker-Phelps said.

“You need to respect where you are in the process. Don’t try to push yourself beyond where you are, because then you are setting yourself up to fail.”

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Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at Dianne.DeOliveira@townsquaremedia.com.

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