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  • Writer's pictureJohn J. Diak, CFP®

How to Succeed at Your New Year’s Resolutions

How to Succeed at Your New Year’s Resolutions

People set goals for themselves throughout the year, but as one year comes to an end and another is on the horizon, this practice peaks in the form of New Year’s resolutions. The ancient Babylonians are believed to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions some 4,000 years ago. Romans also participated in the practice of setting yearly resolutions on this day, and it is said that early Christians used the first day of the new year to think about past mistakes and resolve to do and be better in the future.(1) So, New Year’s resolutions aren’t a new thing.

Today, most people set aside time ahead of January 1st to make promises to themselves to do better in one or more areas of their lives. They set goals to take action and make improvements. While some people have lengthy lists and others have short ones, the thing that most seem to have in common is that they will not follow through on their promises to themselves.

Statistics show that only 9.2 percent of people ever achieve their New Year’s resolutions.(2) There are a number of reasons this may happen, such as setting too many goals or having unrealistic expectations, but there are a few things you can do to make sure that your resolutions become a reality.

What You Can Do to Ensure Success

Keep it simple

One problem many people face is that they feel they need to make improvements in every area of their lives. In reality, it is a better practice to focus your efforts and make one change at a time. When you align your goals with your values, and you pick and choose what’s most important, you’re more likely to see success. You also have to give yourself permission to let the other things go, even if just for now.

Choose wisely

When deciding what your focus will be for the upcoming year you need to choose wisely. What is the ONE thing that if you change will make all other things easier? What will have a big impact on everything else? Your goal needs to be something you feel very strongly about so you will be able to stay motivated throughout the year to keep going.

Be realistic

People often set themselves up for failure by setting lofty and unrealistic goals. When determining what your end goal will look like you need to be realistic. For example, if you are wanting to spend more time with your family or on your hobbies, you need to take a hard look at the demands on your time and where you can make adjustments to your already demanding schedule. There are things that you have to accomplish each week and you will never be able to add hours to your day. So, something has to give.

Break it down

To get the final results you want, you have to know how you are going to get there. Each goal needs to be broken down into small, bite-sized steps and each step needs to be placed into an achievable timeline. If your goal is to put more money into savings, you need to know how much, how often, and what adjustments you are going to make in order to do it. If your goal is to lose weight you need to know how much you want to lose in a year, a month, or even in a week, and what steps are you going to take to make it happen.

Make a plan

Once you know your steps and what you want your final results to look like, you need to get a plan in place. Write out your actionable steps, anticipate what roadblocks you may face, and gather resources to help you through those roadblocks. Another thing too often overlooked is how the other “stuff” in your life can get in the way of successfully achieving your goals. We have all gotten too busy or overwhelmed to keep up the pace of making changes. If you put a system in place to help create healthy habits and routines it can free up the time you need to work on your goal.

Get support

It’s true that there’s strength in numbers. Most people don’t tell others about their resolutions for fear of looking like a failure. But what if you did? Change your mindset and set yourself up for success. Find that one person, or a few people, that you can confide in and share what you are trying to achieve and why. These people can become invaluable as you move through the year and feel like giving in. They can be there to remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing, help keep you accountable for your goals, and give you the little extra push to keep going.

Reward yourself

Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back as you make progress. Set up rewards along the way to keep yourself motivated. They can be small or large, but they must be meaningful. It helps to make your rewards correlate to your goal. If you’re trying to save money for a vacation, when you reach a set amount, you can start looking at destinations. If you’re wanting to lose weight, when you reach a set goal, you can buy new running shoes. Just make sure that you’re not negating all of your hard work with a counterproductive reward, like treating yourself to expensive new luggage while you’re trying to save money.

You are in control

There is a unique motivation behind why each person sets the goals and resolutions they do each year, and they are personal. Remember that you’re making these changes for yourself and that you’re in control. Don’t let others, or yourself, discourage or discredit your efforts. Most importantly, setting a resolution is making a promise to yourself and you need to keep it.

Don’t give up

You can do this! If you take a new approach to setting resolutions and stay positive you will have replaced old habits with new ones and you will begin to see great changes. If you get discouraged, go back to your plan and remember your original motivation and your “why” and keep going.


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