How to make your New Year’s resolution stick, according to psychologists

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By Julie Compton

Lose weight. Quit smoking. Spend less time online. Whatever you resolve to change this New Year’s Day, psychologists say you need a plan — not just a resolution.

Resolutions are never a waste of time, insists John Norcross, a psychology professor at Scranton University and author of “Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing your Goals and Resolutions.”

Norcross has tracked and studied resolutions for over 30 years. He says successful resolvers improve themselves in major ways and often add years to their lives.

But real change takes work. According to Norcross’ research, it takes about three months for a change to become routine. After six months, about 40 percent of people will stick to their resolutions, he says.

If you make it to then, he says, you’re likely to maintain your resolution for life — but you need an actionable plan to get there.

Here’s how experts say you can make your resolution stick through 2019 and beyond.

Be realistic and plan ahead

Successful resolvers begin planning their goals at least a week before January 1st, says Norcross.

“They are the people who are planning for a resolution — not just wishing at 12:01 am,” Norcross tells NBC NEWS BETTER.

They also focus on how they will achieve their resolutions.

“A resolution isn’t a wish, it’s not a dream,” Norcross says, “— it’s identifiable behavior that you can work on.”

Example: Instead of resolving to lose 60 pounds in a year, resolve to lose a few pounds a month, and create a consistent plan on how to do it.

Tip: Record and track your progress. Self-monitoring increases your chances of success.

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