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How to Make and Keep New Year's Resolutions: Tips for Success

Updated on May 12, 2016
AliciaC profile image

Linda Crampton enjoys writing about ways to keep resolutions and maintain a positive attitude. She share tips that she has found helpful.


Joined: 6 years agoFollowers: 1,258Articles: 431
The new year - a traditional time for new beginnings and new resolutions
The new year - a traditional time for new beginnings and new resolutions | Source

Time for a New Beginning

For many of us, the new year seems like a wonderful opportunity for a fresh start. It's an encouraging time to end destructive behaviors and start helpful ones, even if we've failed to do this in the past. 88% of New Year's resolutions fail, however, according to a survey conducted by psychologist Richard Wiseman. With odds like these, it may seem like there's no point to trying to change our habits on January 1st. Fortunately, psychologists and other behavior experts offer some useful suggestions for improving our chance of success, making keeping a resolution a viable prospect.

Good goals require thought and research. Waking up on January 1st and immediately making new resolutions for the year ahead isn't the best way to change our behavior. The SMART system is one method for formulating goals. It requires a little time to set up, but it's often very worthwhile.

Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring good luck in some parts of the world, such as the southern United States.
Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring good luck in some parts of the world, such as the southern United States. | Source

Make SMART Resolutions

The SMART system of creating resolutions is based on the work of psychologists Edwin Locke and Gary Latham. They performed research concerning goal setting and motivation in a business environment. Their research has also been applied to personal goals, such as New Year's resolutions.

The word SMART is an acronym used to help people remember the guidelines for creating practical goals. According to these guidelines, resolutions should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • TIme-bound

Make Specific Resolutions

A resolution should be specific instead of general in order to have the best chance of success. For example, "I will lose five pounds by January 31st" is a better goal than "I will lose weight next year". Similarly, "I will spend a total of two hours volunteering at the Food Bank in January" is a better goal than "I will help others".

To create a specific goal, a person must break a general goal down into smaller and more manageable chunks. Having a more specific resolution makes it easier to design an action plan. A general or vague resolution can be overwhelming.

Some people aim to lose weight in the new year.
Some people aim to lose weight in the new year. | Source

Make Measurable Resolutions

Losing a specific amount of weight or working for a specific amount of time are good goals because they are measurable. Measuring an achievement objectively is a great way to assess progress in reaching a goal.

Measuring requires recording numerical data, such as the quantity of a substance, the number of times something is done or the length of time an action is performed.

If the result of a resolution can't be measured and is assessed subjectively, it's harder to determine if the resolution has been successful. For example, if a goal is vague such as "to get in shape", how do we determine if we are "in shape"? What criteria should we use to decide whether the goal has been met?

"I will climb the hill by my home in fifteen minutes" could be a good assessment of being in better shape (assuming it currently takes you longer to climb the hill) because it's measurable. An even shorter time goal could be set after the first one is reached, as long as the new goal is practical.

Improving resting blood pressure is a measurable goal.
Improving resting blood pressure is a measurable goal. | Source

Make Attainable and Realistic Resolutions

For many people, losing five pounds in a month is an attainable and realistic goal. However, this isn't true for everyone. If a person has a metabolic disorder or illness that causes them to maintain or gain weight, has to take a medication which produces weight gain as a side effect or has a mobility problem, it may be hard to lose weight.

Lowering the weight loss goal may be appropriate for some people. Weight loss could also be replaced by a different fitness goal, such as reducing blood pressure by a specific amount. People who are very out of shape or have medical problems should set fitness goals in conjunction with a doctor.

Similarly, many people could spend two hours in a month helping a volunteer organization, especially as this works out to only half an hour a week. For some people, however, life is too busy for this effort, or they may lack affordable transport or time to get to the organization. Someone who wants to help others needs to think of something that they can commit to, such as donating money or goods locally and regularly or making useful items for charities at home, such as knitted squares or blankets.

What's So Special about New Year's Resolutions?

Realistic and Measurable Resolutions - Some Examples

Goal
Possible Problems
Modified Goal
I will run a marathon in March.
If you've never run before, three months isn't long enough to train for a marathon.
I will participate in a five kilometer event in March and run the whole distance.
I will do well in school.
What does "do well" mean? How will you know that you've done well?
I will get at least 85% on all math tests that I write in January.
I will exercise.
Exercise needs to be regular and of sufficient duration to have a significant health effect.
I will walk for thirty minutes per session and three times per week in January.
I will lose weight.
Losing one pound in a year is technically "losing weight"!
I will lose five pounds in January.

Make Challenging Resolutions

While goals must be attainable, research has shown that they work best when they are difficult rather than easy. For example, health experts often say that losing one to two pounds a week is the best method for sustainable and healthy weight loss. For a young and otherwise healthy adult, losing five pounds in a month may not be challenging enough. A goal that is too easy isn't motivating and may not stimulate commitment.

The nice thing about goals is that they can be modified over time. If someone aiming to lose five pounds in January finds that they actually lose eight pounds without excessive food restriction or exercise, the loss of another eight pounds could become their February goal.

Swimming is a great way to increase fitness in both humans and dogs.
Swimming is a great way to increase fitness in both humans and dogs. | Source

Set a Time Limit for Resolutions

A year is a very long time to work towards a goal. It's probably better to set a goal for one month at a time, or even for a shorter period. Over a long period, interest in a goal and determination to succeed may fade. A shorter period for attaining a goal can provide gratification and encouragement for further success when the goal is achieved. In addition, if the goal isn't achieved within the short time period allotted, the person may feel that not much time has been lost and that it's worthwhile trying again or modifying the goal.

Do you make New Year's Resolutions?

See results

Spread Resolutions Throughout the Year

Changing our behavior is a hard job for most of us. Some researchers say that since changing one aspect of our behavior is so difficult, it makes no sense to create multiple New Year's resolutions. Instead, we should make one resolution at a time. Only when we've achieved one goal should we make another one.

While January 1st or New Year's Day is a traditional day for making resolutions in many cultures, they can be made at any time of year. However, making a resolution on a festival day or a significant day in our lives may give the resolution a special meaning that encourages us to take it more seriously.

New Year's Resolutions For Dogs and Humans

Modify Goals if Necessary or Get Help

No one should be afraid to modify a goal if it's too hard or too easy. However, it's important to try to be honest with yourself before you change a goal. Did you fail to meet the goal because it was unrealistic or because your willpower was weak? Did you try hard but failed because you needed help? Should you seek the help that you need to reach the goal instead of altering the goal?

A partial success in an endeavour that you find difficult can be motivating and fuel your determination to work harder in the next time period. On the other hand, it may be demoralizing because the goal wasn't attained. Failing to reach a goal is a reason for reflection.

Getting support from someone else can be the missing part of the puzzle in achieving a goal.
Getting support from someone else can be the missing part of the puzzle in achieving a goal. | Source

Get Support for Goals

Working towards a goal with another person can be a very effective strategy for success. A friend or a group of supportive people with a similar goal may be extremely helpful. Comradeship and sharing experiences can be comforting. Connecting with other people on the same path and facing the same challenges can be encouraging. In some endeavors a personal tutor, advisor or mentor can be helpful.

Displaying a printed or written goal as a personal reminder or publicizing the goal so that trusted family members or friends know about it can also be helpful strategies. Posting the goal in a part of your home that you visit frequently may be a helpful reminder for you and may encourage your commitment if you know that other people can see it. On the other hand, some people may be more committed to a goal if it's kept private.

Record Your Progress

Recording your progress and other incidences in your life in a journal may be useful. Doing this can not only give you a sense of achievement but also enable you to notice the stumbling blocks in your journey and possibly help you to avoid them. Examining other factors in your daily life in addition to your attempts to achieve a goal can show you relationships that you may never have noticed before. For example, you may discover that you tend to eat sweet food in specific situations.

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year! | Source

Celebrate Your Success

Achieving a goal is a great reason for a celebration! The celebration should be something that you love to do but shouldn't be destructive to your goal. If you've got used to following a healthy diet, for example, a giant serving of a calorie-laden food wouldn't be the best reward.

Once you've attained a goal, it's important to maintain your success. It's very disheartening to reach a goal - such as losing a specific amount of weight - and then undo the success by reverting back to an undesirable condition. Choosing new rewards to be enjoyed periodically or creating new goals may help to prevent this situation. The best solution of all is for a helpful behavior to become an enjoyable habit. This may take a while, but it's a great way to maintain a new year's resolution!

Further Reading

SMART Resolutions according to the Obesity Action Coalition

© 2013 Linda Crampton

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Alicia, very good information here in regard to New Years resolutions. Making them measurable and set at short intervals, and doable but challenging is good advice. Writing them down and having support also helps as you say.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment, Jodah. I appreciate your visit! I hope you have a happy new year.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Excellent advice here! Yes, they must be attainable and realistic for sure. I kept one for three years and that was to lose weight and I did! I did not say I was on a diet, but just eating healthy. So, not using the "D" word helped me not feel deprived, as I ate as much healthy food as I wanted and then I exercised by doing Ty Bo (spell?) for 35 minutes a day. I made myself do the exercise right when I arrived home from work as that is the only way for me to do it, otherwise I would not be motivated once I ever sat down. LOL I lost 43 pounds in just a very short while and kept it off for three years. I need to do this again! Adorable photo.

      Up and more and sharing

      Happy New Year Dear Linda,

      Faith Reaper

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love your story of weight loss, Faith! Your strategy sounds great. Thanks for the comment, votes and share. I hope 2014 is an excellent year for you!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent, encouraging tips about the making and keeping of New Years Resolutions. Love the demonstration by cats :)

      Thanks, Alicia :)

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you so much, Martie. I appreciate all your support. I must admit that I was very happy when I found the cat video. I love it, too!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great suggestions for those who make resolutions. I don't...I review the year and make revisions, and it is a year-long process. :)

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Bill. Thanks for the visit. The review and revise process is a useful strategy!

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      I enjoyed your hub. Happy New Year Linda. Love the cat video on the 10 most common new years resolutions and shared it around.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Nadine. Happy New Year to you, too! Thanks for the visit and the share.

    • srsddn profile image

      srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      aliciac, Thanks for showing the feasibility part of making new year resolutions. I think we all should know our capabilities and make resolutions accordingly. Also there should be a plan to execute the resolutions. Thanks for the insight induced. Useful and Voted up.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment and the votes, srsddn. I appreciate your visit.

    • Gail Meyers profile image

      Gail Meyers 3 years ago from United States

      Alicia, I once made new years resolutions every year. Then I stopped making them several years ago. This year I am considering making a couple again. You give some good tips on making the resolutions realistic and measurable. Thanks!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Gail. Thanks for the comment. Good luck with the resolutions if you decide to make them! I hope you have a great 2014.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      This is really great advice. Every year I say I'm going to do this or that and never get any of it done. By the time the next year rolls around, I sit here and tell myself oh well I'll start now. LOL I definitely need a better plan.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Crafty. Planning is certainly important for New Year's resolutions! Thank you for the visit and the comment. Best wishes for 2014.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great tips Linda. I know many people make resolutions at this time of year but I generally don't. I'm always setting goals no matter what time of the year so I always have something to work toward. These tips are great for anyone setting a goal. Great job and Happy New Year.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Bill. I set goals throughout the year as well as in the new year. A resolution at the start of the year always seems to have a special meaning for me, though.

      Happy New Year, Bill! I hope you have a wonderful 2014.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      This is great advice Alicia, yes we all go mad with our resolutions then they go down the drain. Pacing ourselves, asking for help and so on is so much better. And sometimes we actually do surprise ourselves by achieving at least one goal, voted up and shared! nell

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      What you said makes so much sense. A realistic, yet challenging goal should work well, as it gives one something to strive for.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Nell. Yes, it is easy to create too many resolutions! It's disappointing when we fail to keep them, but on the other hand, it's wonderful when we do manage to keep them. Thank you very much for the vote and the share. I hope you have a very happy new year!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Deb. Yes, challenging but realistic goals seem to work the best! Thanks for the visit and the comment.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great suggestions! We should make realistic resolutions only, the ones which we can achieve and not leave halfway.

      Nice and interesting hub and motivating too!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment, ChitrangadaSharan. Yes, making realistic resolutions is important in order to help us succeed!

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      There are so many great ideas here! I like your emphasis on making realistic goals and think that is great advice. Enjoyed and voted up!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Writer Fox. I appreciate your comment and vote!

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Great hub Alicia. I tend to write a list of intentions for the New Year rather than making resolutions - too many years of being dispirited on Feb 1st when I realise that I have not miraculously turned into Wonder Woman just because I didn't buy biscuits for a fortnight lol!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment, Cynthia. Intentions sound good! I hope you have an excellent 2014.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      These are great tips for year-round, as you mention. It´s so important to set realistic goals and then modify our expectations as we progress. I also appreciate the point to enlist help to achieve our goals. Thank you!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the visit and the comment, vespawoolf. Yes, good resolutions can be made at any time of year!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Awesome ideas here and are mot helpful. I however, don't have any New Year Resolutions.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment, DDE. I appreciate it.

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 2 years ago from Arizona

      What a beautiful Hub to bring in the New Year! Love the little baby picture. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is a healthy start. Great info. Voted up useful! Happy New Year!

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      New Year's solutions should be reasonable and attainable; otherwise, they won't be kept because such solutions are deemed unrealistic, unreachable, and fantastical. Excellent hub, voted UP! By the way, the lovely pictures of the precious little ones are so cute and sweet!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment and the votes, swilliams. Happy New Year!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, gmwilliams. I agree - the children are sweet. Thank you so much for the comment and vote.

    • mySuccess8 profile image

      mySuccess8 2 years ago

      The start of the New Year is often the time many people make resolutions, and as you have stated, research have shown that many resolutions failed because many people did not keep their resolutions. You have introduced an amazing solution to improve the level of success in the form of the ‘SMART’ concept. The ‘SMART’ concept for setting goals and objectives had been introduced in the 1980’s for a wide range of project and performance management and development activities. Now we learned how it should be applied for setting New Year’s resolutions. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment and the congratulations, mySuccess8. I appreciate your visit!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I never make resolutions any more! I have a couple I worked on for a few years, but I finally gave up. Maybe I'll retry using your methods here. I would like to learn Yoga this next year.

      Congrats on HOTD.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Love Dazzle's resolutions! So cute. But you're right about the SMART goals. One of the reasons people never make their goals is that they don't set something that's doable or doable in the time frame they set. I've tried to get better about that over the years, but I'm still working on it. Voted up and awesome. Congrats on Hub of the Day! Happy New Year!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment and the congrats, Mary. I hope you do learn yoga this year. It's a great activity.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Heidi. I love Dazzle's resolutions, too! Thank you very much for the votes and the congrats. Happy New Year to you as well!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Resolutions. Hmmmmm. I seldom am methodical about my process of making goals and knowing myself, I just make daily goals now and celebrate my success with a glass of wine.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      That sounds like an enjoyable process, aesta1! Thanks for the comment.

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Congrats on your HOTD Linda~very well deserved. Happy New Year!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment, Sharon. Happy New Year to you, too!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

      Congratulations on the Hub of the Day award. A well deserved award. Thanks for the good advice. Happy New Year!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the congratulations and the comment, Thelma. Happy New Year to you, too!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Excellent suggestions and thoughts. I admit I do not resolve to do anything at the beginning of each year.

      I tried that and then was disappointed when I did not . For me, to live each day well and try to improve in some area that may need it is what works.

      You have however laid out a groundwork for those who wish to make resolutions and be successful.

      Congrats on HOTD.

      Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It's great that you've found a system that works for you, Patricia. Thank you so much for commenting and for the congrats. I appreciate all the angels that you've sent today very much!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      Great tips for keeping up New Year Resolutions, I make many and try to keep them up. Congratulations on your HOTD!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks, Vellur. I appreciate your comment and the congratulations!

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