How to (Actually) Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions This Time

I made this video to explain this concept.

Around the end of the year I start thinking about making New Year’s resolutions.

And, like a lot of people, I look back on the previous year and realize I failed at getting done some of the things I wanted to accomplish. I’ve actually got these lists of annual goals stretching back several years.

Looking back at them, I’ve noticed some patterns from failed New Year’s resolutions.

So I’m going to give you three suggestions to have a greater chance of accomplishing your resolutions.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Be specific:

Make resolutions that aren’t simply wishes like “I want to be healthier” or “I want to lose weight” but instead make goals that are actionable with a plan behind them. Put wood behind your arrow. In other words instead of “I want to be healthier,” be concrete like “I want to spend less time sitting at my computer and more time being active outside” or “I want to lose 10 pounds and keep that weight off for at least 6 months.”

That’s measurable and trackable and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by starting with resolutions that are hopelessly vague or unachievable. Think hard about what you can get done in the next 12 months. A huge chunk of the work in achieving your new year’s resolutions is simply picking them in a thoughtful way to begin with.

Make a plan about how you’ll deal with difficulties and think about how great it will be to succeed:

Behavioral experts say that people have a higher likelihood of achieving their goals if they both visualize how great it will to have accomplished their goals (such as what type of clothing you’ll be able to fit into if you lose those extra pounds) and also if they think ahead to what kinds of challenges they might run into in trying to accomplish their goals and how they might overcome those challenges.

If you’re trying to do something difficult, chances are you’re going to run into a hurdle or two. Preparing yourself for that in advance can set yourself up for success rather than failure.

Check your resolutions and progress as the year goes on:

Write your resolutions down and refer to them 12 times a year — once at the beginning of each month. Too many people just forget about their resolutions and have no way of tracking their progress.

If you do this for a few years it can be surprisingly fulfilling to look at your resolutions from previous years and think about how much you’ve grown or how much work you still have to do in certain areas. This process can help you become mindful about the individual challenges that we all face.

Bonus tips:

  • Too many goals can diffuse your efforts and stymie your progress.
  • Instead of making each goal big and difficult, make some resolutions smaller and easier so you don’t exhaust yourself.
  • If a truly huge goal seems impossible, consider breaking it up into separate tasks. (Maybe you won’t quite climb Mt Everest this year but there are smaller mountains to climb and training you can do.)
  • Making your goals public and telling people about them can increase a sense of accountability. Don’t be afraid to share your goals with others and ask for their help holding you to your commitments.

So to set yourself up for success when you’re making new year’s resolutions or goals of any kind, follow these three rules.

Number one, be thoughtful about the goal that you’re making to begin with. Is it achievable and measurable? Number two, think in advance about how great it will be to accomplish your goal and also plan ahead for the types of challenges you’re likely to encounter on your way to success.

And finally, number three, check in on your progress. Don’t just set goals and forget them, check in on yourself at regular intervals throughout the year. Remember, a goal without a plan is simply a wish.

By the way, one of my goals over the past year was to create 12 videos, one each month. You can watch the other 11 videos on my YouTube channel. Follow me on Twitter for more.