December 23, 2022

Making New Year’s resolutions that stick

Why paint yourself into a corner with a resolution you’re half-hearted about keeping? Consider different kinds of goals and ways to make real change happen.

With a little bit of planning, accountability, and fun, you can set and stick to your goals.

Like years past, the most popular resolutions for 2022 were to exercise more, eat better, lose weight, get organized, and save money. But, for many, these resolutions faded as quickly as they were made. Is there a secret to making them stick?

Rosalia Vargas, a marriage and family therapist at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, California, believes in setting resolutions, or goals, that are realistic and actionable — and that it’s important to have fun with it. Read on to learn some of her insights and tips about goal setting — and keeping — as well as advice for a fresh take on resolutions.

Why do most resolutions fail?

First, according to Vargas, it’s important to understand why some resolutions are hard to keep. There are 3 main reasons it can be difficult to stick to goals.

  • Unrealistic goals: Overly ambitious goals can backfire if you run into obstacles, or it feels like they are too hard to achieve.
  • Lack of planning: For New Year’s resolutions, people often get caught up in the season and set resolutions impulsively, without thinking about how to achieve them — or how to overcome obstacles.
  • Not tracking progress: If you don’t have a way to show — and celebrate — your progress, it’s easier to lose sight of your goal and lose your motivation.

However, with a little bit of planning, accountability, and discipline, Vargas says you can set and stick to goals that are achievable.

What’s the best overall approach to resolutions or any goal?

First, it’s important to recognize that everyone is different. A goal that works for one person might not work for someone else. However, there are some basic tips that can help you set a goal that works for you.

A good start is to make goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Many people set goals related to getting healthy or losing weight. To make those goals SMART, you have to get more specific. If you’re new to fitness, don’t start with working out 6 days a week. A more realistic goal might be to go to the gym twice a week, 3 weeks every month, or to be active for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week.

Next, make a plan. Put your gym days on the calendar or add a 20-minute walk to your to-do list. I got an organizer this year that’s specific to setting and achieving goals. I started to plan my goals for 2023 weeks before the new year.

Finally, figure out a way to track your progress. The organizer I got helps you break down goals into steps you can track, but you don’t need a fancy organizer. You can use your regular to-do list or make a spreadsheet on your computer. The best tracking system you can use is the one that works for you.

What’s a way to stay on track?

Write down your goals, preferably somewhere you’ll see them regularly. I put up sticky notes in my office with professional goals and different sticky notes around the house with personal goals. If you’re more of a visual person, you can create a vision board.

Revisit your goals regularly. Look at them every week or every month. If you need to change them, change them so they work better for you.

Be accountable. For many people, it’s helpful to share a goal with someone else so you can keep each other on track. I have a good friend who started as my “accountability-buddy.” We had similar goals and decided to work on them together. For example, if your goal is to read more, consider starting or joining a book club and setting a shared goal of reading a book every month or a chapter a week.

Have fun with it. Goals should be about positive change. If it stops being fun or making your life better in some way, think about adjusting your goal. Don’t be too hard on yourself, which leads to the next tip.

Prepare for when motivation lags. Life happens, and you won’t always be as motivated as you were on day one — and that’s OK. The more you can incorporate actionable steps toward your goal into your everyday habits, the easier it will be to keep going. And don’t forget to celebrate your achievements along the way.

Again, there isn’t a cookie-cutter approach to goals. It’s important to do what works for you.

Additional resolution inspiration

Mindfulness is another popular topic for resolutions, but that can mean different things to different people.

Starting out with a goal to meditate 30 minutes a day might not be right for you, especially if you’re just starting out. Keeping a gratitude list and adding to it every day might be one way to start. Or your mindfulness goal can be as simple as scheduling a few minutes to breathe or stretch during the day.

There are so many mindfulness resources out there. You can search online for videos with guided meditations or calming music. Kaiser Permanente also has several resources for members, including access to self-care apps.

Overall, your New Year’s resolution should be something positive that you’re doing for yourself. It’s up to you to decide what’s realistic and achievable — and what success looks like for you.