If you're interested in changing your life for the better, the new year is prime time to take action. That means it is also an opportune time for experts on the science of making new habits stick like Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project who is now at work on a book about--you guessed it--how people can actually make new habits stick.

On Medium recently, she offered a handful of tips on how you can beat the odds that show the vast majority of New Year's resolutions don't last through even Valentine's Day. Here are a few of the best.

1. Focus on happiness.

The first step to an effective resolution is choosing the right sort of change to focus on. Rather than just opt for perennial favorites like getting healthy or learning a new skill, Rubin suggests you ponder your personal answer to the question 'What would make me happier?'

"It might be having more of something good--more fun with friends, more time for a hobby. It might be having less of something bad--less yelling at your kids, less regretting what you've eaten. It might be fixing something that doesn't feel right--more time spent volunteering, more time doing something to strengthen a relationship. The more your life reflects your values, the happier you'll be," she writes.

Looking for out-of-the-box ideas? Check out these suggestions for joyful New Year's resolutions.

2. Make it concrete.

Sure, you want to be a better parent or a more confident entrepreneur, but phrasing your resolution in vague terms makes it less likely you'll actually achieve your goal, according to Rubin.

"'Find more joy in life,' or 'Enjoy now' are resolutions that are difficult to measure and therefore difficult to keep. Instead, look for a specific, measurable action that can become a habit. 'Watch a classic movie every Sunday night' or 'Drink my coffee on my front steps every morning' are resolutions that will carry you toward those abstract goals," she suggests.

3. Yes or no?

The perfect New Year's resolution for one person might be an utter disaster for the next. Setting a goal that works for you isn't just a matter of perfect New Year's resolution technique; it's also about self-knowledge. One key factor to consider: do you chafe at restrictions?

"Some people resent negative resolutions. They dislike hearing 'don't' or 'stop' or adding to their list of chores. If this describes you, try to find positive resolutions: 'Take that woodworking class,' 'Have lunch with a friend once a week,'" Rubin says.

Looking for even more tips to make real positive change this year? Rubin offers more tips and details in her post, or consider other experts' advice such as starting your resolution any day but Jan. 1 or replacing traditional goal posts for change with the concept of "needle movers" instead.

What's your resolution this year?

 

Published on: Dec 31, 2014
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