Successful New Year’s resolutions rely on two things: making the best New Year’s resolution & discovering how to keep New Year’s resolutions.
New Year’s Eve is wonderful opportunity to reflect and reset for the coming year. According to a recent study, 74% of Americans set resolutions. However, a much smaller percentage actually follow through on them.
There are even two national days dedicated to the success and failure of New Year’s resolutions: Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution Day, and Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day.
If you’re interested in following through with your goals this year, let’s dive in to picking the best resolution for you and how to actually keep it.
Pick the best New Year’s resolution for you
The most important thing about New Year’s resolutions is picking the one that’s best for you. Pick a goal that is going to set you up to succeed, instead of setting you up to fail.
I’m not saying don’t challenge yourself. On the contrary, I’m saying don’t sabotage yourself!
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Be honest with yourself
I’m going to take exercising as an example, since it’s a very popular New Year’s resolution. (Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or health professional and you should consult your doctor before beginning or altering any kind of exercise program.)
Let’s say you hate running, but since you want to exercise more this year, you resolve to “run a marathon”. This strikes me as a goal that’s not going to do you any favors.
It may be a fantastic goal for your friend who loves running. However, if you hate running, it’s probably not the best goal for you. Instead, it would be better to pick a goal that you would enjoy trying to achieve.
Set an achievable goal
Since (in this example) you don’t like running, but still want to incorporate more exercise, let’s work together to find a better goal. You might first need to discover a type of exercise that makes you feel good, and that you enjoy doing.
Now, how do you do that? Here’s where we get into setting your resolution. If your goal is to find an enjoyable way to exercise, your resolution could be “try a new form of exercise every month”.
January could be yoga, February could be cycling, March could be weight lifting, April could be walking outside, May could be swimming, and the list goes on and on!
By the end of the year, you would actually be more likely to exercise more (which you wanted to do all along) if you find an activity you love, than if you force yourself to do something you abhor.
New Year’s resolution tips
We’ve discussed how picking the best New Year’s resolution for you is extremely important.
It’s also important to focus on adding to your life instead of subtracting from it when making New Year’s resolutions.
New research suggests that resolutions which are approach-oriented are more likely to be successful than avoidance-oriented goals. So what does that mean exactly?
Approach oriented goals vs avoidance oriented goals
Approach oriented goals are goals where you add something into your life with positive motivation. An example of an approach oriented goal would be “I want to leave work early so I can spend more quality time with my family.”.
Avoidance oriented goals are were you subtract something from your life with negative motivation. An example of an avoidance goal would be “I want to stop staying so late at work so my family doesn’t get mad at me.“.
Essentially, the two goals are the same. However, when you read the two statements, they feel different. Which do you prefer? I much prefer the goal that adds something fun to my life with positive motivation!
I challenge you to look at your New Year’s resolutions list, and see what kind of goals you have set for the year. If you’ve set some avoidance oriented goals, try turning them around to be approach oriented goals!
How to keep New Year’s resolution
So now that you know how to set the best type of New Year’s resolution for you, let’s discuss strategies for how to keep New Year’s resolutions.
How did you feel this year about your previous goals? Were you frustrated you didn’t keep them? If so, you’re not alone.
These are some of the best ways I know how to keep New Year’s resolutions, and I’m excited to share them with you. Hopefully they help you with your goals this year.
Make a S.M.A.R.T. resolution
Did you see that caps lock on “SMART” and wonder why I was yelling? Don’t worry, I wasn’t, I was just typing out the mnemonic acronym coined by George T. Doran.
The letters stand for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. Making sure your resolution encompasses all of those things, makes it easier to keep.
Specificity is key – it’s virtually impossible to keep a vague goal. Being able to measure your goal ensures you’ll be able to keep track of it as you progress.
Picking an achievable goal is so important – you’ll be doomed to fail if you pick something impossible!
Choosing a resolution that is relevant to your life increases the likelihood you’ll want to dedicate time to it. Finally, having a time-bound goal (a deadline) ensures your resolution won’t just slip away.
Less is more
Don’t over-burden yourself by putting too much on your plate. New Year’s resolutions are ways to add to your life, not overwhelm you with stress.
I believe it’s better have one project completely finished, than it is to have five projects half finished.
Some people suggest setting only one New Year’s resolution, and adding another if that one gets completed.
While I can see how this would be helpful, I personally prefer to make one resolution for each area of my life (for example; work, mind, body, soul). However, I’m very mindful that I don’t try to do too much. Feel free to do what works for you!
Make a plan
The best way to ensure you complete your goals is to make an actionable plan for them. If your resolution is a big task, try breaking it down into smaller pieces. Having small steps that lead to your big goal, will make it seem easier to accomplish.
For example, “completely reorganize the house” sounds like a daunting job, but “reorganize the pantry” sounds easily achievable.
Once you finish organizing the pantry, you can move on to the next area, and so on and so on. Before long “completely reorganize the house” will be checked off your list. The small steps will have made it seem less scary!
By planning, and breaking a big task down into small steps, you succeed. It can be the difference between achieving your goal and shying away from it.
Support and accountability
We are not meant to live this life alone! No man is an island, and no resolution is for one person to carry alone.
Talk to the people you love and trust about your resolutions. If you find yourself getting stuck, ask for help. It’s ok to need assistance.
When I plan out my New Year’s resolutionss I have a friend I call every year. We work though our resolutions together, and sometimes getting her perspective shifts how I word my goals, which ultimately leads to my success!
Learn from your mistakes
I’m going to tell you this so you know ahead of time – you will make mistakes. No one is perfect, and your resolutions will hit some bumps as the year chugs along.
The important thing is to make sure the setbacks don’t stop you entirely. Think about it this way, when a baby takes their first steps, and they stumble, do they give up and say “no I don’t think walking is for me”?
Maybe they think that at first, but then they try again. That’s what I’m suggesting to you. When you make a mistake, try again!
If you find that your New Year’s resolution seems insurmountable, I’m giving you permission, right now, to revise it and try again.
Be kind to yourself
In that same frame of mind, please be kind to yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Unless, you’re the person from the first example who didn’t like running – in that case, think progress, not perfection.
Don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to your resolutions. These are goals meant to uplift you, and positively add to your life!
Take a deep breath, and try your best. At the end of the day, that’s all anyone can do.
Give yourself a reward
I used to think that completing my task would be my reward (I’m a recovering perfectionist), but I’ve learned that sometimes a little treat is a good way to keep spirits high and motivation strong.
When you break your New Year’s resolution into small actionable steps, write a little reward you’ll give yourself when you reach that step. It will give you something to look forward to on the journey!
If you’re stuck for ideas, some rewards I like are: buying a book I’ve been wanting to read, doing a face mask, purchasing a new nail polish and giving myself a mani-pedi, cooking myself my favorite dinner, going to the beach and relaxing for the day, etc.
Top New Year’s resolution
Here’s a list of the top New Year’s resolutions – By that, I mean the ones that are the most popular. As we’ve talked about earlier the best New Year’s resolution for you could look very different than it does to someone else!
Take a look through this list, and see if any of them work for you. Remember, you can adapt and change these to fit your lifestyle. Goals are not one size fits all!
- Eat healthier.
- Exercise more.
- Save more money/spend less money.
- Read more books.
- Quit smoking.
- Drink less alcohol.
- Write more handwritten letters and send less emails.
- Start a new hobby/learn a new skill.
- Lose weight.
- Find a new job.
- Be more eco-friendly.
Has this post helped you set a better New Year’s resolution, or a more achievable goal for the New Year? Let us know in the comments what you found most helpful. And remember, you can do anything you set your mind to. 🥰
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About the author
Since graduating from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Jess has been living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She is a freelance writer, specializing in content related to fashion, food and drink and film industry topics. Find out more about Jess here.