New Year, New You!
Strategies for Resolution Triumph!

Learn how to achieve your goals in the new year. This guide gives you practical tips to make real changes. Set better goals and become a new you.

Breaking Bad Habits

The new year often feels like a fresh start and an excellent opportunity to change bad habits and establish new routines that will help you grow psychologically, emotionally, socially, physically, or intellectually. Of course, resolutions are much easier to make than to keep, and by the end of March, many of us have abandoned our resolve and settled back into our old patterns. Part of the problem may be that we do not know how to keep New Year’s resolutions, despite our good intentions.

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Why We Make Resolutions

The new year feels like a new beginning, which is why so many people often set lofty resolutions during these times. While this practice can sometimes lead people to bite off more than they can chew, going after resolutions can also present great opportunities to overcome struggles with willpower, determination, and ingenuity.

Perceptions of the success of these resolutions vary. In one study, only around 12% of people who make New Year’s resolutions felt that they were successful in achieving their goals. Some of the most common resolutions include:

  • Losing weight
  • Sticking to a healthier diet
  • Exercising regularly

  • Making better financial choices

  • Quitting smoking

  • Spending more time with family

While many people feel that they don’t achieve their resolution goals, one study showed that those who set New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to actually change their behaviour than people who don’t make these yearly goals.

So how long do resolutions last? While most surveys suggest that the majority of people don’t stick with their New Year’s resolutions for long, one 2020 study found that 55% of participants considered themselves successful at sustaining resolutions after a year.

In that study, researchers found that people were more successful at keeping approach-oriented goals (such as changing eating or sleeping habits) rather than avoidance-oriented ones (which are motivated by a desire to avoid something).

Even if resolutions don’t always stick, that doesn’t mean that resolutions aren’t worth making. One survey conducted by YouGov found that people who planned to make New Year’s resolutions were more optimistic about the future. So, what can you do to make it more likely that you will keep your next resolution?

The following tips may help you beat the odds.

1. Choose a Specific Goal

Every year, millions of adults resolve to “lose weight,” “be more productive,” or “get in shape” during the next year.1 Instead of selecting such an ambiguous goal, focus on something more concrete that you can realistically set your sights on. In other words, choose a very specific, achievable goal.

For example, you might commit to losing 10 pounds, making daily to-do lists, or running a half-marathon. Be sure to make your goal realistic rather than drastic. Choosing a concrete, achievable goal also gives you the opportunity to plan exactly how you are going to accomplish (and stick to) your goal over the course of the year.

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2. Limit your Resolutions

While you might have a long list of potential New Year’s resolutions, Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at Hertfordshire University, suggests that you pick just one and focus your energies on it rather than spreading yourself too thin among a number of different objectives.

Achieving even one small goal can boost your belief in yourself. For larger goals, consider breaking them apart into manageable chunks to work on one at a time. The American Psychological Association (APA) also suggests focusing on just one behaviour at a time is more likely to lead to long-term success.

Taking on too much all at once can be daunting. It can be particularly difficult because establishing new behavioural patterns takes time and sustained effort. Focusing on one specific goal makes keeping a resolution much more achievable.

3. Put Time Into Planning

Don’t wait until the last minute to choose your goal. Picking wisely and putting in extensive planning are essential parts of achieving any goal. Experts suggest that you brainstorm how you will tackle a major behaviour change, including the steps you will take, why you want to do it, and ways you can keep yourself on track.

Make a Detailed Plan

Creating a detailed written plan can help you stick to your goal. Why is this stage so critical for success? For one thing, it allows you to consider what tactics you will use when you’re faced with challenges. When things get difficult, what strategies will you use to stay on the path toward making your resolution a reality?

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You can start by writing down your goal, making a list of things you might do to achieve that goal, and noting any obstacles that might stand in your way. By knowing exactly what you want to accomplish and the difficulties you might face, you’ll be better prepared to stick to your resolution and overcome anything that might sidetrack you.

4. Start With Small Steps

Taking on too much too quickly is a common reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Starting an unsustainably restrictive diet, overdoing it at the gym, or radically altering your normal behaviour are surefire ways to derail your plans. Instead, focus on taking tiny steps that will ultimately help you reach your larger goal.

Small Steps Lead to Success

  • If you have resolved to run a marathon, start out by going for a jog two or three times a week. Slowly, work up to longer runs and exercising more days per week.
  • If you are trying to eat healthier, start by replacing a few less healthy foods with more nutritious options. Then, tackle another element of your diet, such as adding in a greater variety of vegetables, reducing portion size, and/or cutting back on fried food or eating out.

While it may seem like a slow start, these small incremental changes make it easier to stick to your new healthy habits and increase the likelihood of long-term success.

5. Avoid Repeating Past Failures

If you do choose to reach for the same goals you’ve tried for in the past, spend some time evaluating your previous results. Which strategies were the most effective? Which were the least effective? What has prevented you from keeping your resolution in past years? Consider altering your resolution slightly to make it more feasible. By changing your approach, you will be more likely to see real results this year.

Remember, resolutions are not set in stone. They should be flexible enough to adapt to the evolving circumstances of your life. By embracing a more pragmatic and adaptable mindset, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the challenges that may arise throughout the year. This year, make a resolution not just to reach your goals but also to learn from your journey, making each step forward a deliberate and informed one.

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6. Remember That Change Is a Process

Those unhealthy or undesired habits that you are trying to change probably took years to develop, so how can you expect to change them in just a matter of days, weeks, or months? Be patient with yourself. Understand that working toward your resolution is a process. Even if you make a misstep or two, you can restart and continue on your journey towards your goal.

It may take longer than you would like to achieve your goals, but remember that this is not a race to the finish. Once you have made the commitment to changing a behaviour, it may be something that you continue to work on for the rest of your life.

7. Get Support

Yes, you’ve probably heard this advice a million times, but that is because the buddy system actually works. Having a solid support system can help you stay motivated and accountable. Camaraderie makes sticking to your resolution more fun. So, ideally, find a like-minded pal or loved one to join you in your goal.

Explain what your goals are to your close friends or family and ask them to help you achieve your objectives. Better yet, enlist the help of others by joining a group that shares your goal.