How to Make Your New Years Resolutions Stick This year

By Dana Ingram, LPC

Prospering Hope Counseling

“New year, new you!”  “New year, fresh start!”  With the new year approaching so are the marketing gimmicks to try to get us to buy into fitness memberships, healthy eating supplies, financial advice, etc.  The downfall of this is that it is geared toward pointing attention at the undesirable traits or behaviors that we already feel terrible about, thereby reinforcing the belief that we are failing ourselves.  

Being influenced by this belief, we then decide we should do something different or be something different.  Thinking that we “should” change we then set goals that address things we really aren’t committed to changing.  These goals don’t inspire or motivate us, but are just something that we think we need to do because it changes something about which we are unhappy.

For myself, I have decided before that I was going to lose 20 pounds and, in the process, gain muscle and tone my body.  At first glance it’s not too bad of a goal.  I mean, 20 pounds is attainable and a reasonable amount.  On top of that, there’s nothing wrong with building muscle.  I went out and got a gym membership, bought some workout clothing, and started pinning healthy recipes and pictures of what I wanted to look like on my Pinterest board titled “Motivated for Health”.   

Well, there were quite a few things wrong with my goal.  First, although I wanted to lose weight and change the way I looked I didn’t really plan out how I was going to do that.  I didn’t know what to do at the gym, what exercises targeted which muscles, or what order to do things in.  I was going at it alone so I didn’t have anyone I could consult with.  Secondly, I was comparing what I wanted to look like with people who don’t have the same body size and shape as me.  What I wanted to achieve was not realistic for me.  Thirdly, I hadn’t factored in my work schedule and family obligations and I didn’t plan out when I was going to go to the gym.  Lastly, I put myself in a financial bind because of spending the money on the membership and workout gear because I did all of this on a whim.

Research shows that it takes 66 days to develop a habit and the average amount of time people stick to their New Year’s resolutions is through mid-February.  To be on the track for success you’ll need to develop a plan that covers that minimum of 66 days, understanding that some goals may take longer to achieve.  Your goals need to be something that you are committed to or excited about, so that you will be motivated to stay focused on them.

What is a "good" plan?

As I mentioned earlier, what I learned from my experience is that I didn’t have a good plan.  Your plan needs to be concrete, detailed, and measurable.  Even after we make the decision to change, temptation will present itself.  Your plan also needs to give you the appropriate supports and provide options for when temptation does arise.  It was easy for me to skip going to the gym because I hadn’t made allowances for obligations that may come up.    

Find Support!

Another good quality of a plan is to set smaller goals along the way with reasonable time frames for achievement.  Find support persons or groups that can be a part of your plan.  I didn’t share my goals and create a support team to help me along the way.   I felt lost, alone, frustrated, and ultimately gave up.  The people around me didn’t support me in what I was attempting to do and I heard phrases such as “Oh, one piece won’t hurt” and “You’ve got to reward yourself a little or you’ll never stay focused”.  Although they were meant to give me grace, these statements gave me excuses and those excuses deterred me from my goal.  After a while I gave up because I had already messed up enough that I felt I couldn’t recover.   

Monitor and Adjust!

That leads me to my next point, re-evaluate your plan and where you are often to address pieces that are not working or areas you need additional support.  Practice setting boundaries with those around you that are not supportive of what you are trying to achieve…no matter how well intentioned they believe they are.  You are making these changes for yourself, not for them, so it is ok to put that first.  

Celebrate Successes!

Allow yourself to celebrate successes that occur along the way, no matter how small they may be.  I knew someone who was trying to be more financially responsible and move toward being debt free.  They started identifying where their money was going to go each month, prioritizing bills.  After a period of time they were closer to their goal but some unexpected setbacks had popped up, requiring some of their finances to go in that direction.  They were frustrated by these setbacks and needed encouragement so they sat down to compare where they were in the beginning to where they are now.  One small success that they were able to recognize was that they had stopped going to one particular store because each time they did they would buy something.  Thousands of dollars were saved by making that one change.   

Keep a Health Perspective!

Don’t put all of your focus on the end result as you may become frustrated with yourself and impatient with the time that it is taking to reach your goal.  Instead, allow yourself to be present in the process by noticing the small changes that happen along the way.  Celebrate and be proud of those successes.  When you do stumble, practice forgiving yourself as these stumbling blocks do not mean that you are a failure.  They will serve to keep your attention and your awareness on your plans and your goals, allowing you to continue learning and evolving, ultimately leading to success.

By Dana Ingram, LPC

Prospering Hope Counseling


Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC