Five ways to keep your New Year’s Resolutions

Five ways to keep your New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year 2024

There was a time when New Year's resolutions were an absolute must. Then I realized that I did not stick with them by the second or third month with such regularity that it made zero sense I made them at all. After that, I did not make any for many many years. Why wait for the new year to make a change and fail and reset and do it all over again? We can do this year-round, at any given time. We should assess our life’s goals and path regularly and reset if necessary. There is nothing special about a new year, right? Years later I am back to making New Year’s resolutions again even if I know there is a pretty big chance that I may not stick to them because having traveled around the sun many times over, I realized a new year is a wonderful thing and a wonderful, sometimes painful but always real, moment to be in community with the rest of the world and reflect and change. 

New Year
New me, again
despite what it will be
in this evolution I am
- Wanda M. Toby @litevi

In a Psychology Today article from 2013, David Ropelk suggested that we celebrate New Year’s Day as part of our motivation to survive. New Year's marks a moment to honor surviving another year of life much like our birthday. Tied directly to nature as 365 revolutions around the sun this is how we keep track and measure our longevity.  Resolutions, he maintains, are also part of surviving and ensuring our longevity because they are usually about making better life choices, living healthier, improving relationships, etc. This is a point in time to have some form of control over our lives as we move into the unknown future. Ropelk maintains that “we resolve to diet and exercise, to quit smoking, and to start saving. It doesn’t even matter whether we hold our resolve and make good on these promises. Committing to them, at least for a moment, gives us a feeling of more control over the uncertain days to come.” How then can we do better? 

I gathered five helpful tips from a large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions published on 12/9/2020 by PLOS ONE journal that can help with that. 

Five ways to be more successful with your resolutions

  • Resolve to change a behavior

  • Be approach-oriented instead of avoidance oriented

  • Set goals

  • Assess your progress more frequently

  • Have support/accountability

The first three tips are very much intertwined and reflective of each other. New Year’s resolutions should be about setting new goals for the year instead of making loose promises to one’s self to change. 

Resolve to change a behavior- It is not enough to want to be a better person or eat healthier in 2024. That is a broad idea with no clear action. It is better to find a behavior that leads to you being a better person and resolving to change that. Go beyond a concept into something actionable. Which leads to the next tip. 

Be approach-oriented instead of avoidance-oriented- Once again focus on what you can actually do instead of things to avoid. For example, if you are thinking of improving your eating habits choose what can you eat in place of poor food choices as opposed to simply telling yourself that you will avoid certain foods. 

Set goals- To support you in accomplishing your resolutions or at least sticking to them for a little longer this year, you should set goals, preferably SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, & time-bound) goals. When you set goals you can then utilize the next tip to periodically check in with your progress. 

Assess your progress more frequently- When you put the previous in place you have done most of the work to set yourself up for success. Now remember to set times to check in with yourself and reflect on your progress. This is when you can reset if need be or adjust the plan based on your progress. You can set some time on your calendar or create check-in reminders on your smartphone. 

Have support/accountability- This last one is a problem for me. Support I can deal with but accountability is a problem. I understand the need and reason for an accountability partner. They can motivate you and be an outside source to remind you and hopefully keep you inspired. I will admit that I do not appreciate being held accountable especially when I know darn well that I am not doing my part. With that being said, telling people I trust about my plans and goals is a good motivator because in some way I now have to be accountable for my words. Share your passions, goals, and plans for the future with like-minded people who you can trust and who you know are your biggest supporters and will inspire you without nagging you. Share it with people who know how to listen and be a post to lean on when you simply need to pause and take a breath. 

Stay focused, stay motivated, and, most importantly, live and remember to rest and reset if needed. 

Listen to the PODCAST

Reference Articles


Why We Really Celebrate New Year's Day

A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals


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