How to Make New Year’s Resolutions You Will Actually Keep

It’s that time of year again. As the new year approaches, we begin to think ahead to what it may have in store for us and what we want to accomplish for ourselves. The television is flooded with commercials for dieting products, nicotine patches, and storage crates. The air is buzzing and hope begins to balloon in your chest. Even though January 1st is just another day, we have given it social and psychological meaning, and it marks an almost-tangible transition. You have goals, resolutions, and you will keep them.

new yearAnd then the magic dissipates, the champagne goes flat, mid-January or early February hits, and you suddenly do not care about those resolutions. And even if you do care, you convince yourself that you do not have the time, energy, or resolve to stay committed. Is this just the hectic reality of life? Maybe. But it may also be that you simply did not set the right kind of resolutions.

If you want to make new year’s resolutions that you truly will keep, follow the steps below. I’m using these with my own resolutions, and they have proven to work for me in years past.

Step One: Dream BIG

The dawn of a new year is the perfect symbolic time for refocusing on your dreams. However, most people stop at this step. They say to themselves, “I will be healthy this year.” That’s a great dream! But if that is the resolution you use to represent that dream, you aren’t going to get very far in achieving it.

Step Two: Get Specific

Okay, so you want to “be healthy.” Awesome! Now, what does that mean for you? There are several kinds of health: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, psychological, financial, etc. Whatever your resolution is, make sure you know exactly what it is you plan to accomplish. Without a clear picture of what your dream looks like, you won’t be able to make it a reality.

Step Three: Get Real

Let’s say your dream is to “get rich.” Okay, fine. And you specify that to be “make one million dollars.” That’s all good and well, but is that goal actually realistic for your current and projected situations over the next twelve months? Chances are, it’s not. A few more realistic ways to work toward your dream of riches would be to receive a raise, find a higher paying job, invest, or create multiple streams of income. While it may take you longer to reach your dream, I guarantee this approach of small realistic goals over big unrealistic goals will help you stay motivated and get you much farther in the long run.

Step Four: Get Quantifiable

So, you have your dream and your specific goal, and you’ve made sure they are realistic. Great. Now it is time to make your goal(s) measurable. Going back to the “be healthy” example, let’s say you decide that means to have better nutrition. Lovely. Make that into one or two even more specific goals that you can quantify. These could be: eat one serving of vegetables every day at lunch, only eat one serving of junk food per day, or drink less than five sodas a week. The choice is yours, of course, but make sure that you can track your successes and failures clearly and without negotiation.

Step Five: Get Tough

But not too tough. If you set a goal for yourself that is too easy or too difficult, you are bound to fail. For example, I drink maybe one soda a month. Tops. So, if my healthy resolution was to cut out soda altogether, that is a healthy decision, but it would not be difficult for me at all. However, I LOVE chocolate, so if my goal was to cut out chocolate completely, I would fail within a week. There has to be a balance. If your goal is not challenging, you are deceiving yourself into believing you are moving farther than you are. Likewise, if your goal is too challenging, you will never reach it and feel like a failure.

Step Six: Get Honest

Selecting your new year’s resolution(s) is a deeply personal decision. However, so many people choose their resolutions based on what others do. Is this a product of social groupthink, social pressure, or just a lack of creativity? No matter which way, make sure you are only taking on resolutions that you actually want to try and that you truly believe will benefit you. Don’t feel like losing 10 pounds? Don’t resolve to lose weight. Don’t want to record every second of your life? Don’t resolve to keep a journal. It’s that simple.

In the end, the keys to making new year’s resolutions you will actually keep are these: know yourself, your situation, and your dreams. Be smart, be logical, and be entirely honest.

And remember: the only judge and the only victor is you.


What are your new year’s resolutions? What factors do you consider when choosing your goals? Share your advice below!

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Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

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17 comments on “How to Make New Year’s Resolutions You Will Actually Keep
  1. Jonas Lee says:

    I usually choose my goals in three stages: Something small (attainable) like choosing to go a month without a soda. Something I hope to achieve, get rid of half my credit card debt. And something grandiose that I know I won’t meet, but certainly strive for as in, write five manuscripts. Then if I only write three, hey, I wrote THREE!

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I share my resolutions tomorrow, I’ll go into this in more detail. But, my husband’s tradition is to select as many resolutions as years you’ve been alive (so 22 for me). This usually results in a less-structured version of what you’re talking about. Some of mine end up small and some of them end up too big, but I like being able to cross some things off quickly and having big goals to reach for as well. It creates a good balance for me. Thanks for sharing, as always!

      Like

      • Jonas Lee says:

        Lord, I’d have too many resolutions at this point. I’d start making ones like, get out of bed before 8:00 every day…breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, etc…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I am a bit concerned about how I’m going to keep up with it as the years progress. Luckily, I tend to be pretty ambitious — and pretty good about getting down to the nitty-gritty minutiae and making one goal into three or four.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. smnystoriak says:

    I usually make resolutions that have to do with structuring my time, since my job is a Music Teacher at a public school, and we have two children and a dog at home. My writing time needs to be fit in very carefully if I am to be successful with it. This usually translates into learning new ways to organize myself, since I can’t really structure my day any differently, lol! We’ll see how things go this year. Every year I try new techniques and I do stick with them for a long while. I keep what works and ditch or tweak what doesn’t.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Organization and time management are definitely two things that weasel their way into my resolutions as well. Not overtly, but as a necessity if I am to accomplish my goals for the year. Good luck sticking to yours this year and thank you for sharing!

      Like

  3. Angela Eve says:

    Love this! It’s perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I definitely agree that measurability is very important. That’s something I’m taking into account for this year’s resolutions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed! So many people say things like, “I want to be a happier person,” and while that is fantastic, they don’t make any plans to measure it and be able to check it off! I would say measurability is probably the most important aspect of goal making. Good luck with yours!

      Like

  5. coffeennotes says:

    Loved the post and for my goals I love writing the plan it self for each goal, it helps me a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] And that’s all, folks. Feel free to cheer me on in the comments (I need all the encouragement I can get!), or during my monthly updates, which I intend to keep posting. I’d also love to hear YOUR New Year’s resolutions and other goals. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few tips on crafting realistic, attainable New Year’s resolutions. […]

    Like

  7. Reblogged this on Finding Ourselves at Home in the World and commented:
    Kate has learned the “write” way to set goals. As an organizational and staff development specialist in my previous life, I know her advice to be “write” on target. Take a look at the guidance on setting New Year’s resolutions from Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. […] I can cheer you on, too! Or, if you need a little help crafting your goals, check out this post on making attainable New Year’s resolutions. Just remember: do as I say, not as I […]

    Like

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