Turn Goals Into Habits: Making New Year’s Resolutions Work

In Inspiration, Personal development by Jesse Anderson1 Comment

New Year’s Eve is a time for reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the coming year. It’s a time to notice changes we want or need to make, and find the inspiration to follow through on those changes. New Year’s resolutions are a way of telling ourselves “I can do better, I can be better.” But do we really need a new year to do this?

Having a fresh calendar to attach a sense of time and new beginning to our goals can be helpful. However, simply making resolutions year after year with little strategy or support conditions us to believe “I will do it this time, this time it’s for real” and then to become okay with failure when we get “too busy.” It’s all a psychological game in the end. If you take away the calendar, which is just numbers and letters on a grid, and set aside the bandwagon buzz about “New Year’s resolutions,” you are still YOU, with the same challenges, living the same life you did the day before.

The truth about “New Year’s resolutions.”

new years resolutions pull quote

The unfortunate truth is that goals made simply because of the New Year don’t usually last. Research shows that six months after making resolutions, fewer than half of the people who make them have kept them. 60% of people will make the same resolutions the next year. Resolutions such as losing weight, quitting smoking, spending more time with loved ones, etc., are things to incorporate into your lifestyle all the time, not simply because the calendar flips.

Are we addicted to making resolutions we know will fail?

According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University, New Year’s resolutions are an expression of hope. “They aren’t an action plan for the future; they’re an emotional strategy for today.” When people set resolutions they feel more optimistic and in control. Unfortunately, says McGonigal, this sense of control is unrealistic.

“This is another quirk of the human mind: people reliably expect their future selves to have more willpower, motivation, and energy than their present selves. And while this thinking may not be realistic, it isn’t entirely foolish. The more optimistic we are about our future selves, the happier we are today.”

There is something to this cycle. Optimism and believing in myself helped me get from living a self-destructive and boring life to a life of adventure and inspiration. It all began with a fresh start, but not without careful thought and setting goals. We get the results we desire when we take destiny into our own hands, make necessary sacrifices and live with discipline.

My goal as a writer is to help my readers to think not “outside the box,” but as if there weren’t a box to begin with. This is absolutely necessary to your individuality, and therefore, living the life YOU want to live, not the life others believe you should live. Don’t let the limiting beliefs of people in your life, or your culture at large, dictate who you are and how you live. Strip yourself of all assumptions about what you are “supposed” to do, turn off the “yea, but” and “I’m too busy” function (or dysfunction) of your mind and allow yourself to really start fresh and set some meaningful, attainable goals.

Let’s step away from the short-term satisfaction of New Year’s resolutions and get serious about creating short-term and long-term goals. You CAN achieve realistic dreams as long as those dreams are a priority you are willing to take responsibility for. Are you open to change now? Are you optimistic about it? If so, let’s do this!

Setting goals for life

Goal setting is a process of identifying and defining the aspirations, achievements and values you wish to fulfill. By making goals concrete and specific you solidify your commitment and ownership of those aspirations.

Step 1: Identify

What do you want?  Well, we want results. We want things to be a certain way. The only way to get a result is to first know what the result is. Start with visualization. Visualize what your life would be like if it was complete. Where are you? Who is there? What are you doing? How do you feel? Make this an exciting process, but be very honest with yourself.

Now use that visualization to make a list. Answer the following:

  1. How do you want to spend the rest of your life?
  2. What do you want to do in the next five years?
  3. If you had six months to live, how would you spend it?

Step 2: Organize and Prioritize

Take your list and organize it by importance. The most important things go at the top, going down to the least important. Remember that some of the results you want will need to be attained before others.

Step 3: Specify

Once you have a prioritized list of what you want, narrow it down and turn it into steps.

For example, under the larger goal of education, one might put “get a degree in psychology.” Under the degree, one might put “help victims of abuse.” This person may really want to help others, and to do it they know they need a degree. Both are goals, but one depends on another. One comes before the other. The step is to get a degree the result is to help people.

Follow it down from the big idea to the final outcome. List as many intermediary steps as are necessary. This will help you to see the flow between what you want and how to get it.

Step 4: Chunk Time

Chunking goals together into three time-based categories makes them manageable. Take your list and put the goals into long-range (5+ years), mid-range (1 year) and short-range (1 month).

Step 5: Act

What can you do in the next week to further your most important goals? Do not evaluate feasibility (remember that we turned off our “yea but,” and “I’m too busy functions”).

Do it.

Putting pen to paper clarifies our thoughts of what we would like to achieve, and puts us in charge. It attaches time and reflection to a list that we can re-read and adapt as we grow. By defining our long-range, mid-range and short-range goals, we have both an action plan for the future and an emotional strategy for today.

Don’t make resolutions in the name of the New Year. Make them from the core of your spirit. Make them part of your lifestyle. Use the New Year as a reference point, and your written plan as your guide. Take it one day at a time. I cannot stress that enough. Each day is a chance to be mindful about the way we are living our lives. Taking that for granted leaves us aimless and eventually unhappy, wishing things were different. Review your dreams, goals, and your visualization of what you really want from life each day. You owe that to yourself.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying.” –Robert Herrick


  1. Well said Broski. It’s funny cuz i was just talking to my friend about how rediculous New Years resolutions are. All the positive changes in my life. Happened due to my own choices.

Leave a Reply