4 Ways to Rethink Your New Year’s Resolutions

A group of friends rethinks their New Year's resolutions and sets realistic expectations and goals.

Committing to a New Year’s resolution is a challenge. Once the excitement of the holidays comes to an end and our motivation fades, we often find that we’ve pushed our resolutions to the back of our minds. Soon enough, we give them up completely. 

One reason you might give up may be because of your approach to your goals. You may focus so much on the end result that you forget to consider the methods it takes to achieve your goals.

Here are four ways to rethink how you approach your New Year’s resolutions so you can set yourself up for success. 

1. Set realistic expectations.

It is important to work toward your resolution with the resources you have right now, not with what you wish you had. If your goal is to take on a new business project, ask yourself if you have the time and money to do so, and consider how you will prioritize your other commitments. What things are you willing to give up to accomplish your goal? 

Creating realistic resolutions does not mean that you have to lower the bar for yourself. In fact, setting goals that are too low can also be detrimental to your success by encouraging weak effort. Take time to assess your current situation and consider what you would like to achieve. Remember to challenge yourself, while being realistic about what you are able to accomplish at your present stage of life. 

2. Work in small steps. 

If you find that you are struggling to complete your New Year’s resolution, it may be because you find your goals daunting due to a lack of direction. Try breaking down your large goals into smaller, more digestible steps. For example, if your goal was to run a marathon, you wouldn’t attempt one right away without any training or preparation. You would start by running a few miles at a time and work your way up. 

As you finish these smaller tasks, you will feel more accomplished as you watch your progress unfold. Keep track of these little achievements by writing them down or sharing them with others. Doing so will help you stay motivated and encouraged to keep working toward your goal. 

3. Define your goals. 

Clarifying your desired outcome is an important step to making your New Year’s resolution feel more attainable. You might be inclined to set generic goals such as being healthier or spending more time with family. However, you may find that it is more helpful to create specific objectives, like working out three times a week or taking a walk with your kids for an hour a day. Instead of keeping your resolution general, define exactly what you wish to accomplish, which methods you will use, what the deadlines are and why this goal is important to you. 

Writing down answers to questions like these is key to the success of your New Year’s resolution. One study found that participants who wrote down their goals were 42 percent more likely to accomplish them. Defining the specifics of your resolution also helps you to remain accountable to yourself and others. It discourages you from making excuses or finding loopholes due to a lack of specificity. Being clear leaves less room for carelessly or insufficiently completing your goals or altering your plans simply because you don’t feel like working on them. 

4. Be flexible. 

Although it is important to stay faithful to your resolution, life isn’t always predictable. You or a loved one might get sick, something unexpected may happen or an unforeseen opportunity may arise, causing your new habit to become last on your priority list. If this happens, don’t be discouraged. Instead of giving up altogether and regressing, do what you can. Alter the resolution to work around your current situation. Then, when you are able, create a plan to get back on track or reevaluate your goals to work for your new stage of life. 

Don’t be hard on yourself if the outcome isn’t what you expected. Your New Year’s resolution can change and grow as you do. You may continue your current resolution throughout the entire year or gradually decide to focus your growth in a different area. No matter what you decide, remember that real growth doesn’t happen in a year — it is a lifelong process.