Each year, 45% of Americans make resolutions — and only 8% of those people actually achieve them. Here at Readers.com, we’ve had our fair share of resolution setting (and failing miserably), too. That’s why we’ve asked a few of our favorite bloggers to dish on everything from their biggest resolution flops to maintaining and achieving their 2014 resolutions. Check back each month as ShelleyCrystalJudi, and Anne-Marie coach us through selecting, setting, and maintaining our goals in this three-part series. 

 New Year's Resolutions: How to Stay Motivated

Happy New Year! January is a time for celebrations, new beginnings, champagne — and kickstarting your New Year’s resolutions! Stay motived with Shelley of Forest City Fashionista, Crystal of Dressed Her Days Vintage, Judi of A Baby Boomer Woman’s Life After 50, and Anne-Marie of The Succulent Wife as they offer advice on how to keep focused all the way to 2015. We know you can do it!

(Missed the past posts in this series? Catch up on our blogger panel’s tips for setting realistic resolutions and inspiring 2014 resolutions!)

How do you plan on fulfilling your resolution?

Shelley: For me, it helps if I make notes, as the process of putting thoughts on paper can often solidify them in my mind. When I complete a task or errand that contributes towards a positive change and check it off the list, it helps keep me motivated, even if it’s just as simple as taking a half an hour to go through the receipts that cover my computer desk, filing the ones I need to keep and destroying the ones I don’t.

Crystal: I plan to take a three-day retreat alone and away from home. During that time, I’m doing some visioning work and spending some time in prayer and meditation to help me set priorities better.

Anne-Marie: It’s a plan that has been years in the making!

Any advice for those of us that might struggle or lose motivation during the process?

Shelley: What works for me may not work for other people. I’m a list maker, so it helps to see things written down. I think it’s important to not beat yourself up if you struggle with keeping a resolution you’ve made or give it up altogether. Keep in mind that failing to keep a resolution doesn’t mean you are a failure; it just means that maybe you need to break it down into smaller, more manageable goals.

Crystal: If you tend to binge on making resolutions, Stephen Cope’s book, The Wisdom of Yoga, might encourage you to look more realistically at your aspirations as insight about yourself. The real value of New Year’s resolutions may be what they reveal about our motivations and our state of mind. The Wisdom of Yoga provides an accessible way to see the Sutras applied in everyday life. It also sheds light on the crazy cycle of overachieving. It involves three afflictions of the human mind that are the source of nearly all suffering:

  1. Cravings. Our tendency to lean forward into the next fantasized moment in the future is called rãga (clinging, attachment, attraction, hunger, ambition).
  2. Aversions. Some resolutions are about stopping things we know are bad for us. Yoga masters might have classified this as dvesha — aversion to the experience. This is what tells us to stop, leave, or look backward to a previous state of comfort.
  3. Delusions. Finally, we may completely disappear from the moment by creating a delusion, a mind state known as moha. We do this by creating a false picture of reality based on how life should be (which is always different than the way it actually is) or through complete avoidance. (e.g. Don’t make me look!)

Cope’s book is drawn from the Yoga Sutras, a brilliant piece of writing that explores man’s spiritual and psychological nature. He says we crave accomplishments and experiences (rãga), run away from things (dvesha), or create delusions for ourselves (moha) because we don’t fully experience our lives as they already are (avidyã). These things serve us well sometimes. Cope’s book maps the territory between the healthy and the afflicted state of mind. What makes a mindset afflictive?

  1. Afflicted mindsets are disturbing. We feel uncomfortable and unbalanced in our very being.
  2. Afflicted mindsets are obscuring.  This state makes things worse or better than they really are. Either way, our perceptions aren’t true or accurate. We overrate some things, or we fail to notice the bad effects of others.
  3. Afflicted mindsets are separative. Something is separating us from our happiness — love, material things, success, achievements. Once we have those things, we’ll feel complete. This is reflected in the life of King Solomon who pursued pleasure, success, love, purity, peace, wisdom — everything known to man. In the end, he said the whole purpose of man was to keep God’s commandments — to commune with God.

Yogis believe that we penetrate these layers of afflicted mindsets through meditation. In meditation, we access a more luminous part of our mind that is already acquainted with happiness as a natural state. Having freed ourselves from these afflictions, we make truly conscious choices, and not patterned ones that are made less out of choice than conditioning.

Judi: My advice is to not set resolutions, so that you’re not disappointed when you cannot achieve them. See how many negatives are in that sentence? Instead, set intentions that are positive. What do you really intend to do that will make your life better?

For example, to practice gratitude, I may keep a journal of the things I am grateful for. I’ll write down three things at the end of each day. It’s a positive way to end the day, and maybe I will sleep better and have sweet dreams.

Anne-Marie: Make your goals realistic and achievable. Make sure that the benefits are tangible. Reward yourself and, if you can, have someone your care for hold you accountable by “reporting” to them. We are much better at ponying up when someone else is keeping count. We’ll let ourselves down, but not others.