Making New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep

It’s a new year once again, and a time for us to make resolutions to improve our lives. How many of you want to quit smoking? How many want to lose weight? How many want to better your education? More important, how many of you will still be on track toward this resolution come February? And how many of you will achieve this goal by the end of the year? Sadly, not many. And the reasons for not achieving these goals range from procrastination to life intrusions to loss of motivation. The unfortunate side of this is that most of us would be better people for meeting our goals. However, the good news is, we can all set reachable goals AND attain them by the end of the new year. Here are a few tips on how you can make resolutions that you can actually keep.


  • Set realistic goals--One of the main reasons people fail to meet their goals is they set unrealistic goals for themselves. Too often, we get caught up in the end result, rather than the road to get there. If you keep in mind the efforts that will be necessary to achieve the goal, you will be more apt to reach it.
  • What external forces are in play?--For example, consider Jane. She wants to complete the classes necessary to obtain the Bachelor’s Degree she began right out of high school. She only needs 30 credit hours and she’s done. So she makes that her goal—attain her B.A. by December. What Jane doesn’t consider is that she works full time, is a single mother of pre-teen actively involved in sports, and volunteered to run the fashion show for her women’s guild this year. Will she achieve her goal? Possibly. But more than likely, no. She will begin with enthusiasm, but as the months go on, she’ll discover the strain on her family life, work life, social life and health. She will realize something has to give. So she takes less and less classes, eventually quitting altogether because the holidays are just around the corner and she just started a new relationship.
  • The measure of success--Did Jane fail? Yes and no. Her intentions were good. She just didn’t give thought to the consequences of keeping her resolution. She didn’t consider the steps necessary for reaching her goal—she only looked at the end result. She expected too much of herself, and in the end, gave up.


  • As we saw in the above example, poor planning led to poor results. If Jane had actually considered everything involved in achieving her degree, she would have seen the impossibility of the task and altered her goal. Rather than setting out to achieve her degree, she could have made a resolution to start on track toward attaining her degree. She would have realized that she didn’t have time for 30 hours worth of classes, and could have set her goals at ‘registering at a local college’ and ‘take one or two three-hour classes every grading period.’ She would have had only a maximum of 18 hours completed by the end of the year, but that would have been 18 more hours than last year. And 18 hours closer toward a degree, something she never came close to in the first example because she gave up early on due to life intrusions. ·
  • Study your goal—Look at what you want to achieve, be it weight loss or a career change. Make a list of everything you need to do in order to achieve the goal. Consider how much time and effort you will need for each step, then plan accordingly. For instance, if you want to lose 30 pounds, you can’t do it in 30 days. Take the first step toward achieving that goal by buying healthier foods. Then either sign up at a health club, or create your own exercise regimen. Start slowly. If you are 30 pounds overweight, you won’t be able to run five miles the first day. Try walking one mile, increase it by a mile every week or so as your energy level permits, then try running one mile and walking four, etc., until you are able to run the five miles.
  • Measure your success--Within a few months, you will be able to run the five miles you couldn’t have run in January. That doesn’t make you a failure for the first few months of the year while you were running less than five miles. Instead, you were slowly working toward your goal, eventually achieving it.


  • Too often, we lost sight of our goals because we literally ‘lose sight’ of our goals. If our goal doesn’t involve something physical, such as weight loss that can be measured on a weekly basis with a scale, it is often difficult to keep track of one’s progress. For instance, how do you measure a goal of ‘I am going to do one random act of kindness every day.’ You won’t change physically. And more likely than not, nothing in your home will change.
  • Stay motivated--So how do you stay motivated when there are no physical results? How do you keep up with your resolution if nothing changes around you? The largest measure of success will of course be how you feel about yourself. But to have something more concrete, write your goal on a piece of paper and tape it to your computer screen or mirror—a place you look every day. Not only will it be a reminder to keep the resolution, it will be a reminder of what you have achieved up to this point and make you feel a better person for doing it.


  • Support system—Another reason we often stray from our resolutions is a lack of support system. Sometimes there is a friend or family member who is sabotaging your goal, be it a conscience act or not. Criticism, sarcasm, and demands on time can all lead to failure of a goal. For instance, does your husband stock the pantry with high fat snacks when you are trying to diet? Does your friend suggest an activity for your children, then renege on the carpooling duties? Does your mother criticize your time away from the family because you are attending night classes? Any of these can cause guilt to creep in, and ultimately cause you to stray on your path to success. To stay motivated, you must have a good support system. Surround yourself with people who want to see you reach your goal.
  • Create a buddy system—One of the best ways to stay motivated and achieve your goal is to make the same goal as a friend or family member, then work toward that goal together. You will not only have someone to support you, you will feel better about yourself by being able to support someone else in their achievements.


  • Reward yourself—It sounds self-assuming, but one of the best ways to stay motivated is to celebrate your success. And I don’t mean you should wait until the very end to do so. Every little step, be it a “B” in Economics class, or two more pounds gone at the end of the week, reward yourself with some enjoyable activity. Make it something for you alone, be it an hour alone to read that new book, a trip to the mall for a new pair of running shoes, or an appointment for a manicure. Encouragement, be it from others or yourself, will bring you closer to your goal.

So when you sit down to make your resolutions this year, remember to make them attainable, create a plan to get you there, find a support system, and reward yourself. You will be a better person in the end because of it.


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