Setting a new year’s resolution is a great way to kick start the new year in a positive way. It has positive implications for individuals as well as society. Unfortunately, many people set these resolutions year after year with little to no results. Some reasoning for this can be a lack of motivation, not being consistent, or not setting goals that are actually attainable. By being intentional with your goals this coming year, you can set yourself up for success and get on track to becoming a healthier, better you. Here are a few ways that you can learn how to set realistic New Year’s resolutions that you will actually keep.
Be specific and intentional.
It’s important to be very specific about what you want to accomplish and how you will get there. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, be as specific as possible. Instead of making your goal to lose five pounds, narrow it down to an even more specific goal. This could be losing half of a pound per week or consuming 500 fewer calories per day. This way, you are better able to manage your progress throughout. Also, this can help reframe a goal that seems unattainable to a far more manageable one.
These details also help ensure that the resolutions are attainable within the time frame set aside for them. If something is too vague or ambiguous, such as wanting to simply be healthier, it can feel overwhelming when trying to make a plan for how exactly one would go about doing so. Setting specific goals allows us to know exactly when we’ve accomplished what needs to be done. It can also help us reassess if adequate progress is not being made.
Make a plan but be flexible.
When you make a plan for your goals, you will need to assess your strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly. You need to be realistic about what you can accomplish in a given amount of time. Don’t expect perfection and understand that it’s fine if things do not go exactly as planned. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. The more people you have on board with your goals the better off you will be. An example of this could be asking a friend or family member to work out with you or to join in on your shift toward healthy eating.
Once you’ve got a plan in motion, don’t be afraid to change it if things don’t go exactly according to the plan. For example, catching a cold or becoming too busy at work can derail you temporarily from hitting your daily goal. Being flexible with yourself is a method by which you can remain consistent and not give yourself permission to quit entirely if one day does not go as planned. Having a rigid mindset can be helpful in some instances but when it comes to long-term goals, it is not sustainable.
Don’t make too many goals for yourself.
When you are planning out your resolutions, focus on one or two goals rather than making a multitude of small goals for yourself. It is far better to focus on one area of your life at a time rather than trying to tackle everything at once.
For example, if you are a college student who wants to save more money and spend more time with family but also wants to get healthier by exercising more often, those three goals will not be achieved simultaneously unless there are some drastic changes made in your daily routine and lifestyle. Ultimately, you are setting yourself up for failure by stretching yourself in too many varying directions. Instead, select one of these goals and prioritize that change first. From there, you can add new goals later.
There are a few reasons why too many goals are harmful to your success. Firstly, it takes a lot of time and energy for most people to get into a routine. It would be unrealistic for someone who does not have much free time on their hands, like a student, to try changing multiple aspects of their lives at once.
Secondly, each resolution requires different methods in order for them all to work together harmoniously toward achieving one goal. If someone decides they’re going to change their diet drastically without changing any other aspect of their lives, they may end up feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated.
The key to selecting a resolution that you will stick to is by reflecting inwards and asking yourself some questions. Some examples of these important questions are:
- What are my strengths?
- What are my weaknesses?
- What are my values and morals?
- What am I capable of doing, and how much effort am I willing to put into it?
- Why do I want to accomplish this goal?
Once you have answered these questions, you can identify the areas in which you may need to be more intentional. For example, if one of your weaknesses is self-control, you will need to be more intentional about controlling your impulses. This is a common experience for those that opt to lose weight or alter their diets. Cravings for processed food can pop up often, and those with little to no self-control are less likely to be successful.
In fact, a study demonstrated that people with higher levels of willpower were significantly more successful in achieving their new year’s resolutions than those who did not have excellent willpower. In addition, people that used a self-reward technique were able to achieve their goals more easily as well.
Temptations can come in the form of both people and things, and you will want to reduce exposure to both in order to stick to your new year’s resolutions. In many cases, the people around us have a strong impact on our ability to commit to goals as well as remain consistent.
A great example of this can be seen with consuming alcohol. For those that choose to remove alcohol as a goal, spending time around those that drink regularly or heavily can have a negative impact on their ability to stick to their resolution.
Additionally, if the people around you are not on board with your goal, they may peer pressure you or attempt to persuade you to quit. Temptation can also come in the form of food for those trying to remove processed food or eat healthier in general. If you keep these unhealthy food items in your home where they are easily accessible, you are far more likely to reach for them during a moment of weakness. Avoiding these people, places, or things that can offer temptation is key to staying on track.
Focus on one area of your life at a time.
Instead of trying to bring about big changes everywhere at once, focus on just one area of your life at a time. This way, you can avoid getting overwhelmed and making things unnecessarily difficult for yourself along the way. Many people select either mental health, physical health, financial, or relationship-oriented goals. These are all impactful places to make a change and can bring about some serious shifts if done correctly.
Identifying just one of these areas to set your resolution is important. From there, you will want to set a specific timeframe for when you want this goal achieved. This could be a month, a quarter, or a full year. Finally, identify what steps need to be taken in order for this goal to come to fruition. In general, people are less likely to follow through with their resolutions if they don’t have specific plans for how to accomplish them.
The tips above can help you create realistic and effective resolutions for 2023. Remember, it is important to be intentional about what you are ultimately trying to achieve.
Setting lofty goals without a clear plan for how to accomplish them will only leave you feeling frustrated and defeated when they don’t work out as expected. And even if the year passes and your goal was not completed exactly as you intended, focus on the positive outcomes rather than what was not achieved.
Any improvement within your life is a success in and of itself.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.
- Oscarsson M, Carlbring P, Andersson G, Rozental A. A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLoS One. 2020 Dec 9;15(12):e0234097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234097. PMID: 33296385; PMCID: PMC7725288.