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How to Stick to Your Resolutions When Failure Seems Imminent

Somewhere in the last few years, right now became the *official* time when everyone drops their New Year's resolutions like a hot potato. (Potato? Did someone say potato?) Do some digging, though, and you'll see that there's not a ton of concrete data—just lot of hype about everyone failing, which makes you feel a little less guilty about failing yourself. (It's total peer pressure: "Well if everyone is doing it...")

Turns out, we can't agree on exactly when this group #fail happens. There's the often-referenced but unproven "Ditch Your New Year's Resolution Day" on January 17 and another drop-off at the end of the month—at least according to Facebook gym check-ins. More optimistic chatter claims that most people stay strong into February; a commonly cited statistic claims that 80-some percent of people are donezo by February's second week.

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While researchers haven't conducted a highly scientific study on the phenomenon, we can see why this annual "we give up" happens around this time. For one, it's cold and miserable and there's no vacation time in sight (hi, Blue Monday.) Second, Valentine's Day candy is popping up EVERYWHERE and that little voice inside that says "treatyoself, girl" is telling you that #selflove means eating an entire sleeve of Oreos (guilty as charged). Not to mention, science says it takes 66 days to form a habit—and we certainly aren't that far into the New Year yet. (Hold out until March 7, however, and you've officially beat the system.)

But guess what? It's all a bunch of BS. NYC-based fitness chain New York Sports Clubs doesn't report any sort of drop-off ("more of a tapering as we approach nicer weather," according to the rep) and neither does expert-requesting app Thumbtack.

Whichever day or week you believe to be the legitimate graveyard of New Year's resolutions, the fact is, you can make it through. (Even if your city is the best or worst for keeping healthy living resolutions.) Don't believe us? These tips will help you ace your resolution—whatever it may be—so you can prove all those tired stats they're wrong after all.

1. Be realistic.

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Thinking you can run a marathon in five months when you've never set sneaker to pavement might be lofty and admirable—but probably won't be doable. On the other hand, aiming to run a 5K when you can already do a comfortable three miles probably won't feel scary enough to get you out of bed in the morning. Experts agree that setting larger-than-life goals is setting yourself up for failure—but you do need a challenge. Here's how to set (or tweak!) your resolution goals to make sure they're a good fit.

2. Don't give up so easily.

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Achieving your goals isn't supposed to be a cakewalk. It won't always be easy, and you won't always be excited to do it. (Case in point: the "I don't have enough time to work out" excuse is bogus. Just ask the Tone It Up girls.) That eventual loss of excitement, though, is one of the main reasons for this late January/early February quit-fest, according to Andrew Schrage, as we reported in The Top 10 Reasons People Ditch Their Resolutions. Think of the immediate positive effects of your actions: that post-workout endorphin rush, the burst of energy you'll get from eating fresh produce instead of processed snacks, or the accomplished feeling of checking something off your to-do list. Do what you can right now to work towards your goal—and before you know it, you'll be there. 

3. Stop expecting failure.

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A whopping 43 percent of people expect to give up on their resolutions one month into the New Year, according to a Twitter survey of 4,000 people by ethical activewear brand Sundried. That's not how many people actually gave up after one month. That's how many people expected to give up in that time frame. Um, news flash: If you plan to fail, you're going to fail. It's not rocket science. Stop expecting to give up and learn to visualize your success to make it happen.

4. Don't let a slip turn into a fall.

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So you vowed to do yoga every single day, or to cut added sugar from your diet—but you spent all day on the couch instead, or you indulged in a piece of cake at your friend's birthday bash. So what? Don't let one slip-up derail you completely. The point of resolutions is (almost always) to build new healthy habits—not to deprive yourself or overcommit until you eventually quit. Congratulate yourself on doing well so far, and learn from the fact that you made a mistake but got right back on the horse. That's just one of the ways to adopt a #winning mindset and pave the way for making good choices in the future. Focus on what you can do here and now—don't obsess over the past or fantasize about the future, according to life coach Hunter Phoenix in 10 Reasons You Don't Stick to Your Resolutions.

5. Pat yourself on the back.

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If your to-do list or the looming challenge in your training program is so intimidating that you feel frozen, flip the script. Instead of thinking about what's coming, think about what you've already done. Many successful people make success lists instead of to-do lists, as Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, said in 25 Experts with Amazing Resolution Advice. (Check out these two-second motivation boosters.) Think of every workout you've logged and every piece of candy you've resisted—feels pretty good, right? And that feeling only makes it easier to keep the streak going.

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