How to Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Tips on setting yourself up for success.

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

New Year’s resolutions have gotten a bad rep. We’ve started to deem them silly and pointless as we can make any desired changes at any time that we choose. There is no need to wait for a new year, which is really just another day on the calendar.

But, a new year naturally brings with it optimism. It is the proverbial page-turner for our lives — A fresh start. It gives us a specific moment we can pinpoint to kind of wash away all that happened prior and begin again. Does it really change anything? No. But half the battle of achievement and transformation is mental. So, if seeing a new year as a blank slate helps us get going and have some hope for the future, so be it. Take advantage of that.

Our resolutions for a new year only seem futile when we never follow through. If we’re constantly making and then breaking them, of course they will appear frivolous and no one will take them seriously. Not even us. So, if we set our intentions for the new year, it’s important that we do so in a manner that puts us in a position to succeed. If not, then there really is no point. We’ll only further frustrate and discourage ourselves.

Make New Year’s resolutions tangible — something you can actually see and for which you can measure progress. Ambiguous goals like, “I want to be nicer to people” will never work. However, if you start with, “I want to smile at one stranger every day,” that’s something you can gauge. You can take note of that and actively pursue this daily achievement.

Resolutions should connect with something that you care about. You can’t make them for other people or pertaining to things that you think should be important to you, but aren’t. You will never stick to a goal of learning to paint if it’s not something in which you’re genuinely interested. Just the same, don’t set a goal to attend yoga class once a week if you hate yoga. Find an exercise that you actually enjoy, or at least hate less.

Set smaller goals as resolutions that will ultimately lead to your larger goal. If you want to exercise more, first make it tangible. Say you will work out twice a week to start. Have an actionable plan of what you will do. Such as go to aerobics class, jog around the park, etc. Then work your way up to more frequent activity. We sometimes overwhelm ourselves with our goals because we don’t set a clear target. It feels like too much when viewed as a whole. Break it down into and focus on smaller, digestible pieces.

Some believe it takes 21 days to build a habit. Some believe that’s a myth. Regardless, doing something every day for an extended period of time will form a habit. So, instead of saying you want to jog every morning, say, “I’m going to get up and jog before work for 21 days.” Or 30 days. Pick a significant number. Once you’ve accomplished that, you won’t need to extend the goal, it will come naturally after you’ve trained your mind and body to do it. Plus, you’ll likely feel so good that you’ll want to keep going.

Don’t think you’re going to go from lying on the couch eating honey buns to a workout fanatic drinking kale smoothies overnight. NOTHING works like that. It’s always a process. Not recognizing this sets us up for failure every time.

Want to start a business? Make your resolution to purchase a business license or a domain. Just take the first step, then you’ll be inclined to take the next, and the next. We don’t have to set out to obtain it all, all at once.

Accountability is a major key as well. Write down your resolutions and place them somewhere you’ll be forced to look at them every single day. Tape them to the bathroom mirror, place them next to your alarm clock or on the refrigerator. You may even consider getting a vision board, and then hanging it somewhere you’re sure to constantly see it.

Also, tell your resolutions to people who you know will ask you about them. These are accountability partners. If you look at, and ignore what you’ve written down every day, these people will force you to assess the situation and offer an answer as to where you stand on getting where you told them you want to go. This could be a parent, friend or anyone who follows up on things we’ve said. What we often view as them being annoying or invasive is actually them keeping us honest.

Be specific, be sincere, be realistic and hold yourself accountable when making resolutions as we head into the new year. This way, they’re more likely to be kept. Then, the “New Year, New Me” approach won’t feel so silly or pointless.


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