We might roll our eyes when people proclaim a “new year, new me” mantra, but with the poor track record of most New Year’s resolutions, we have the right to be a little sceptical. It’s rare to hear of someone actually keeping their resolution for the whole year. We see gyms get crowded in January, a giant spike in #MondayMotivation posts on social media, and more smoking cessation and weight loss ads on TV. It all dies down a month or two into the new year. So how can we keep that motivated, ready-for-change attitude going? By making a plan. Accomplishing any type of goal requires a plan with certain steps. These six tips we’re about to give are essentially six steps of a goalkeeping plan. Follow them, and you’ll have a much higher chance of keeping your resolution!


1. Set a clear goal.

The first thing you need to do is start thinking about your New Year’s resolution as a goal, not just a whim. You may have heard the term SMART goal before. SMART is an mnemonic acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Your goal should meet all of these criteria in order to be considered a good or a smart goal. For example, “I want to lose weight” is not a smart goal. Instead, “I want to lose 20 pounds by July” gives you a specific goal that you can measure and achieve in a realistic, timely manner. To take this goal a step further, you could add in a specific meal plan and workout schedule. Revisit your New Year’s goal and see if it meets all the SMART goal criteria.

Colorful explanation of SMART goals

Infographic by Dungdm93 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0


2. Let people know about your goals.

Accountability is an important part of keeping a goal. By letting other people around you know what goals you’ve set for the new year, you’ll create a sense of obligation to stick to what you’ve told them or otherwise look like a fraud. Choose who you share your goals with carefully. Make sure they are positive, uplifting people who care about you. A co-worker you’re close with, your best friend, or a parent might be a good choice. They’ll want to see you succeed and be there to offer support and encouragement.


3. Track your progress.

Going back to SMART, we’re going to talk about the importance of making your goal measurable. A measurable goal allows you to track your progress. Keeping a written log makes your progress concrete. Find out what element of your goal is quantifiable. It might be pounds lost or a tally of how many times you resisted a cigarette craving. If you’re trying to start a new habit, like flossing your teeth, keep a log of all the nights you did or did not floss. Looking at your tracked progress will give you a clear indication of how you’re doing.


Person writing notes in a journal


4. Be patient.

Research has found it takes an average of 21 days to form a new habit. It can take even longer to reach a goal, especially a career or lifestyle goal, which requires months to years of commitment. Remind yourself that no one accomplishes anything overnight, even if it looks like they did. There’s always a struggle, perseverance, and hard work behind any accomplishment. If you don’t see changes or progress as quickly as you want, be patient and keep going. As more time goes by, you’ll be able to look back and see that you were making little bits of progress each day. Little daily acts add up to big changes by the end of the year.


5. Set reminders.  

A common excuse for not following through on a New Year’s resolution is forgetting what you decided to work on in the first place. We get swept away by work, school, friends, and family because that’s just how life goes. Focusing on ourselves is difficult when there are many other things demanding our attention. To keep the focus on you and your goal, set reminders. You can set reminders on your phone or calendar. You can leave sticky notes around the house or in your car. Set little reminders in places you’ll be sure to see them to keep you on track.


6. If you make a mistake, don’t give up.

If you want to succeed, you can’t be afraid to fail. Failure is actually a prerequisite to success! Learning what doesn’t work is a great way to get one step closer to discovering what does. If you make a mistake, slip up, or mess up on keeping your New Year’s resolution, don’t give up. Every mistake is a learning opportunity. So, learn from your mistakes and move on. Don’t hold onto it or beat yourself up about it. Don’t dwell on it for too long, and once you’re ready, try again.