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Making New Year's Resolutions Stick: A Practical Guide

By David Cozzens

Introduction: Every New Year, millions of people make resolutions aiming to spark positive change in their lives. However, studies show that a significant number fail to stick to these resolutions. This guide will explore effective strategies to help ensure that your New Year's resolutions are more than just annual wishes, but pathways to real, tangible change.

Understanding the Challenge: The first step in making resolutions stick is understanding why they often fail. Common pitfalls include setting overly ambitious goals, not having a clear plan, or lacking a support system. Understanding these challenges is key to overcoming them (Source 1: Psychology Today).

Set S.M.A.R.T Goals: The S.M.A.R.T framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) is a powerful tool in goal-setting. This method ensures that your resolutions are clear and attainable, which significantly increases the chances of success (Source 2: American Psychological Association).

  1. Specific:

  • Meaning: Goals should be clear and specific, which helps to focus efforts and feel truly motivated to achieve them.

  • How to Apply: To make a goal specific, answer the five 'W' questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?

  • Why is this goal important?

  • Who is involved?

  • Where is it located?

  • Which resources or limits are involved?

  1. Measurable:

  • Meaning: It's important that goals are measurable so that you can track progress and stay motivated. Measuring progress helps to meet deadlines and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your goal.

  • How to Apply: A goal is measurable if it answers questions such as:

  • How much?

  • How many?

  • How will I know when it is accomplished?

  1. Achievable:

  • Meaning: Your goal also needs to be realistic and attainable to be successful. It should stretch your abilities but still remain possible.

  • How to Apply: When you set an achievable goal, you may have to ask yourself:

  • How can I accomplish this goal?

  • How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?

  1. Relevant:

  • Meaning: This step is about ensuring that your goal matters to you, and that it also aligns with other relevant goals. We need support and assistance in achieving our goals, but it's important to retain control over them.

  • How to Apply: A goal is relevant if it answers 'yes' to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?

  • Is this the right time?

  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?

  • Am I the right person to reach this goal?

  • Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?

  1. Time-bound:

  • Meaning: Every goal needs a target date, so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward. This part of the S.M.A.R.T goal criteria helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals.

  • How to Apply: A goal is time-bound if it answers the question:

  • When?

  • What can I do six months from now?

  • What can I do six weeks from now?

  • What can I do today?

In summary, the S.M.A.R.T system is a tool that can bring structure and trackability into your goals and objectives. By ensuring that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, you're more likely to achieve them.

Create a Step-by-Step Plan: A goal without a plan is just a wish. Break down your resolution into smaller, manageable steps. This not only makes the goal seem less daunting but also provides a clear roadmap to follow (Source 3: Forbes).

Build a Support System: Sharing your goals with friends or family members can create a network of accountability and support. Joining groups with similar goals or using social media platforms for accountability can also be beneficial (Source 4: Harvard Business Review).

Track Progress and Celebrate Milestones: Keep track of your progress and celebrate small victories along the way. This not only boosts morale but also helps maintain focus on the end goal. Tools like journals or apps can be effective for tracking progress (Source 5: Lifehack).

Here is an example of what this looks like;

S.M.A.R.T Goal for Weight Loss:

  • Specific: Lose 15 pounds.

  • Measurable: Track weight loss progress weekly.

  • Achievable: Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

  • Relevant: Goal is to improve health and fitness.

  • Time-bound: Target to achieve this goal in 10 weeks.

Detailed Plan Based on the S.M.A.R.T Goal:

  1. Week 1-2: Establish Baseline and Plan

  • Action Steps:

  • Consult with a healthcare provider or dietitian.

  • Start a food diary to track current eating habits.

  • Begin a simple exercise routine, like walking 30 minutes daily.

  1. Week 3-4: Implement Dietary Changes

  • Action Steps:

  • Reduce caloric intake by 500 calories per day to aim for 1 pound of weight loss per week.

  • Increase water intake and reduce sugary drinks.

  • Incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and lean protein into meals.

  1. Week 5-6: Intensify Exercise Routine

  • Action Steps:

  • Join a gym or start a home workout program.

  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, plus strength training twice a week.

  • Start a weekly progress check to monitor weight loss and adjust diet and exercise as necessary.

  1. Week 7-8: Refine and Adjust

  • Action Steps:

  • Assess progress and adjust calorie intake if weight loss is not on track.

  • Try new physical activities to keep the routine interesting and avoid plateaus.

  1. Week 9-10: Solidify Habits and Plan for Maintenance

  • Action Steps:

  • Begin planning a maintenance diet to avoid regaining weight.

  • Research and plan ways to overcome potential future obstacles.

  • Celebrate achievements and set new goals for continued health and fitness.

  1. Post-Goal: Maintenance and Evaluation

  • Action Steps:

  • Regularly monitor weight and activity level.

  • Adjust caloric intake and exercise as needed to maintain weight loss.

  • Continue to seek support and education on healthy living.

This plan not only focuses on the goal itself but also emphasizes developing sustainable habits that can lead to long-term success. It's important to remember that individual results may vary and adapting the plan to personal needs and circumstances is key. Regular consultation with health professionals is recommended to ensure the plan is safe and effective.

Conclusion: Making New Year's resolutions stick is not just about making promises to yourself; it’s about creating a feasible, structured approach towards achieving your goals. By setting realistic goals, planning meticulously, seeking support, and celebrating progress, you can turn your resolutions into reality.


  1. Psychology Today: Provides insights into the psychological aspects of goal setting and motivation.

  2. American Psychological Association: Offers a wealth of information on how to set achievable goals.

  3. Forbes: Features articles on goal planning and achieving personal success.

  4. Harvard Business Review: Discusses the importance of support systems in achieving professional and personal goals.

  5. Lifehack: A resource for various tools and tips for tracking progress and personal development.

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