Seven Strategies for Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Last
by Kalpana Parekh, MSW, LISW-s
Millions of Americans made resolutions on New Year’s Eve to do better and achieve more in 2021. Within the next 30 days or so, most of those resolutions will be abandoned. Studies suggest that 80 percent of people who set resolutions on Dec. 31 fall back on old habits by mid-February.
If you’re in that 80 percent, don’t lose heart. Our collective struggle with keeping New Year’s resolutions suggest the problem may lie elsewhere—like with the tradition itself.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
We set New Year’s resolutions because it’s a natural point for a fresh start. But achieving a life goal is not as easy as turning the page on a calendar.
“Resolution” is a strong, demanding word. For resolution, we need passion, clarity and inspiration. Yet often, our New Year’s resolutions are too big or vague. We expect change now. And we don’t give ourselves rewards along the way.
Successful goals require planning, process and patience. When we don’t have the right supports and mindset in place, we get frustrated and give up. And then we do it again the next year without understanding why our New Year’s resolutions fail in the first place.
Setting Goals That Stick
If you find your resolutions are getting wobbly, don’t give up. You can still adapt your approach. Here are seven research-based strategies for setting and keeping goals—no matter what time of year you make them:
Create a Vision for Your Best Life
Experiencing the best of your life doesn’t happen by accident. It takes reflection and planning. It also helps to connect your goals to your purpose, rather than just an outcome.
For example, instead of resolving to achieve a specific weight, you can set a target of being healthier. From there, you can develop a plan that incorporates smaller goals, like exercising 30 minutes a day and cooking healthy meals four days a week. Within a few weeks, these goals will become healthy habits—and those healthy habits will become a lifestyle.
Thinking about your goals in this way will make them more sustainable. It will also help you maintain balance. Instead of getting frustrated and quitting or doubling down in an unhealthy way, you can focus on gradual progress.
Above all, be kind to yourself. Developing a new habit takes time. It requires both mental and physical effort. Celebrate the wins as they come, and have grace with yourself if you stray from your goal.
If you’re feeling stuck, consider meeting with a therapist. Compass Point’s clinical experts can provide guidance and support to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals. Get started by calling or requesting an appointment online. It could be the first step to unlocking your potential.