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Practice Your Self-discipline and Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions!

The New Year is here! Surely, you’ve noticed by now how difficult it can be to keep your resolutions. For a lot of people, a New Year’s resolution is no more than an interesting conversation starter; each year they give up after just a few weeks. Anyone who visits the gym regularly is familiar with the “January rush.”

The ability to keep a New Year’s resolution boils down to your level of self-discipline: the ability to maintain awareness of your choices each moment and to choose “the hard one.” This same willpower is what enables people to achieve great feats, like writing a novel or winning a triathlon.person hiking

Fortunately, willpower is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets! Even better, you don’t have to go anywhere special to train. There are opportunities for you to “work out” your self-control during every waking hour. You’re probably familiar with the scenario: you’re spending time on social media and you know there’s something more important you ought to be doing. You quell the little voice of reason because continuing to browse online gives immediate satisfaction and a welcomed distraction from what you should be doing.

In that moment, you must decide between an easy and a difficult (but far more rewarding) option. Either continue to waste time on funny pictures or get to work. Learning to recognize this kind of choice, and habitually choosing the better option, will dramatically improve your ability to stick to decisions.

Here are some exercises in self-discipline you can do to slowly build your resolve to enormous, award-winning levels:

  1. Wake up at your very first alarm every morning and immediately get out of bed and dressed. Immediately means within a minute or two, not ten. If you have trouble picking out clothes, do it the night before.
  2. Instead of browsing social media in your short periods of downtime (your bus ride or waiting for class to start), keep a challenging book handy.
  3. Start a healthy habit like playing an instrument, becoming more flexible, or learning about finances. Keep it small and manageable, but spend time on it every day — ten minutes is all you need. Resist the temptation to get carried away at first. In your excitement, it’s easy to spend a few hours the first time or two then burn out and lose interest.
  4. Check on your “roommate habits.” Do you regularly contribute by replacing toilet paper? Taking out the trash? Cleaning up? How about your personal space? Is it organized and neat, or a hazard zone with pathways through the clutter? You don’t need to be perfect, just spend 15 minutes a day on these.
  5. Meditate. This is the “old standby” exercise for building willpower. Focus on your breathing alone. As soon as thoughts come to your mind, let them drift away.

Some of these may seem like common sense, but if you’re not practicing them yet, start now. Eventually, you’ll realize what a foundation they build for sticking to your decisions and turning ideas into action.

This year, practice your willpower and make your resolutions more than a conversation topic!