How to Make New Year's Resolutions That Will Actually Stick

It's safe to say that in 2021 we'll all be looking for a fresh start. Most of us are eager to put 2020 behind us and make this year a happy and healthy one. So, as we kick off 2021, is it a good idea to make a New Year's resolution? After all, more often than not, the resolutions most of us make seem to be highly restrictive and unsustainable, leading most people to break their resolutions within a few weeks. The problem usually lies in the intentions set behind the resolution in the first place. Here's how to make sure you're setting the right intentions for New Year's resolutions that you can actually stick to.

It's almost halfway through January, and while some people have already set their goals for 2021, others may be asking themselves, "Are New Year's resolutions even a good idea?" The answer as to whether or not you should set a New Year's resolution depends on why you're making the resolution in the first place. Research around the psychology of goal setting has found that those who set goals like "make more money" or "look good in a swimsuit," often struggle because they're superficial in nature and so broad it's difficult to even know where to begin. If you don't have a plan as to how to achieve your resolution, you're off to a very rough start.

On the other hand, those who make goals that align with their values and are specific fare much better.

For example, resolutions like, "I want to walk every day for 20 minutes so I can live a healthier lifestyle and be a good role model for my kids" and "I want to eat more whole foods at every meal so I feel better and have more energy" are specific, realistic, and encompass positive values. A primary key to success is having a plan and making small, healthy changes every day until the behavior becomes a habit that you don't even have to think about.

When it comes to making New Year's resolutions, put good thought into the kinds of goals you are setting.

Will they give your life more meaning and purpose? Are they truly healthy and sustainable goals? If your resolution is aligned with what you value most and promotes a healthier lifestyle, go for it. Just make sure your goal is specific and measurable and most importantly, you have a detailed plan as to how you'll achieve it. If your resolution is ambitious with no real meaning or plan, you may want to rethink it.

Goal Setting Do's and Don'ts

Research has found that individuals who fail or give up on their resolutions tend to:  

  • Focus on the downside of not achieving their goals
  • Suppress cravings
  • Rely on willpower alone

On the other hand, those who stick to their resolutions tend to: 

  • Break their large goals into small steps and create small changes that, over time, add up
  • Celebrate their milestones
  • Share their goals with friends
  • Focus on the benefits of success (i.e., how their resolution would improve the quality of their life)
  • Keep a diary of their progress

Whether or not you should set a New Year's resolution depends on the intentions behind the resolution itself. As long as your goals are meaningful, specific, realistic, and encompass positive values, you're on the right track. Don't forget to make a detailed plan for achieving your goal, and focus on making small changes overtime. Avoid common habits that cause people to give up on their resolutions, like relying on willpower alone or suppressing cravings. At the end of the day, reward yourself (in a healthy way, of course) for crossing milestones and achieving what you set out to do in the New Year.

Want even more tips for maintaining New Year's resolutions? Download our guide.

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