How to Make New Year’s Resolutions Work: Strategies and Examples

Every January 1st, millions of people around the globe are filled with hope and determination as they scribble down their New Year’s resolutions. Fast forward a few weeks, and many of those resolutions have fallen by the wayside. So, what’s the secret to making them stick? Here are proven strategies to ensure your resolutions transform from hopeful wishes to impactful, long-lasting changes, complete with examples to guide you.

Be Specific and Measurable

Vague Resolution: “I want to get fit.”

Refined Resolution: “I will go to the gym three times a week and follow a structured workout plan.”

The more specific your resolution, the better. It’s not enough to say you want to “get fit.” Define what fitness means to you. Is it the ability to run a 5k without stopping? Is it being able to do 10 pull-ups? Identify concrete ways to measure progress toward your goal.

Break it Down into Smaller Steps

Broad Resolution: “I will write a book.”

Actionable Steps: “I will write 300 words daily,” “I will complete the first draft by June,” and “I will revise one chapter per week.”

Large goals can be overwhelming. Break them down into smaller, achievable tasks that will gradually lead you to your ultimate objective. This approach not only makes the task more manageable but also provides you with frequent opportunities to celebrate success, which boosts motivation.

Make it Time-Bound

Open-Ended Resolution: “I’m going to learn Spanish.”

Time-Bound Resolution: “I will complete a beginner Spanish course by April and practice for 20 minutes each day.”

Assigning a timeframe to your resolution creates a sense of urgency and helps prevent procrastination. With a deadline in sight, you’re more likely to prioritize the activities that contribute to your goal.

Understand Your ‘Why’

Simple Resolution: “I will stop eating junk food.”

Motivated Resolution: “I will stop eating junk food to improve my cholesterol levels and reduce health risks, ensuring I’m around to see my grandchildren grow up.”

Connect your resolution to a personal why. This deeper motivation will keep you going when the novelty wears off. Understanding the reasons behind your goals fosters resilience and commitment.

Anticipate Challenges

Optimistic Resolution: “I will save more money.”

Prepared Resolution: “I will save more money by setting aside $100 every paycheck, and I’ll curb impulse spending by waiting 24 hours before any non-essential purchase.”

It’s crucial to anticipate potential roadblocks and plan for how you’ll deal with them. If you foresee that impulse buys might derail your savings plan, put strategies in place to mitigate that risk.

Track Your Progress

Hopeful Resolution: “I will be more positive.”

Trackable Resolution: “I will write down three things I’m grateful for every day and reflect on how I handled daily challenges in a positive manner every evening.”

Documenting your journey not only serves as a reminder of your commitment but also allows you to visibly see the progress you’re making. A gratitude journal, for instance, can be a powerful tool to cultivate a positive mindset.

Share Your Goals

Private Resolution: “I’m going to learn to play the guitar.”

Shared Goal: “I will share my weekly guitar practice progress on social media and perform a song for my family by the end of the year.”

Sharing your goals with friends, family, or a social network can provide a supportive community to encourage you and hold you accountable.

Be Flexible

Rigid Resolution: “I will only eat healthy food.”

Flexible Goal: “I will eat healthy meals during the week but allow myself a cheat meal on weekends.”

Life is unpredictable. Be prepared to adapt your resolutions as circumstances change. Flexibility can help sustain your goals long-term.

Practice Self-Compassion

Harsh Resolution: “I will not fail in my diet.”

Compassionate Approach: “If I have an unhealthy meal, I will not see it as a failure but as an opportunity to make a healthier choice next time.”

You will have setbacks. Treat yourself kindly when things don’t go as planned, and use setbacks as learning experiences rather than excuses to give up.

Celebrate Successes

Unacknowledged Goal: “I want to run a marathon.”

Celebrated Achievement: “After every milestone in my training, I will celebrate with a small reward like a movie night or new running gear.”

Recognize and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. This will help build momentum and reinforce positive behavior.


Making your New Year’s resolutions work is all about strategy. By setting specific, measurable goals, breaking them down into smaller steps, and keeping the motivation alive through understanding your ‘why’, you are setting yourself up for success. Anticipate challenges, track your progress, and share your journey for added accountability.