How to Make a New Year’s Resolution and Make it Stick

New Year resolutions
Photo by Daniel Reche from Pexels

How to Use New Year Psychology to Achieve Life Goals

A resolution is just another word for a decision. But a resolution has a particular weight to it. It is a firm decision, a choice to resolve a problem, something we are resolute about doing. 

But many people fail in their New Year Resolutions. So how do you set yourself up for success? From my experience of achieving my personal goals, plus coaching many clients through achieving their aims, I would offer 5 Ps to help make a successful resolution: psychology, prioritising, principles, process, and people.

Psychology

There is a reason that New Year’s resolutions are popular. Psychologically the New Year represents new opportunities. Even though in reality it is just a date, mentally it is like being presented with a fresh blank canvas. A fresh new year, a new calendar with 12 full months to look forward to; giving us the feeling that we can achieve something new.

What’s more, having (hopefully) had a break over the holidays we bring a fresh perspective to what we want to do. It is hard to make decisions and life changes in the busyness of work and normal life. A vacation gives us distance from our responsibilities, and a chance to reflect on where we are and where we are going. Therefore, this break in regular activity presents an opportunity for changing direction. 

But if you want to make the most of this psychological advantage and set yourself up for success, you need to make the resolution before the New Year. The decision and plan need to be ready so you can start immediately. Trying to make important life decisions, when you have a sore head on New Year’s Day, is perhaps not the best way to go about things! Equally, if you leave your planning until you are going back to work it is likely the resolution will get lost in your old patterns and routine. So, start thinking and planning now.

Prioritise 

Most people have lots of goals and things they want to achieve. It would be very easy to make multiple resolutions and try to succeed in as many of these aims as possible, but that would be a mistake.

If you want the best chance of succeeding, you need focus. Therefore, you must choose the most important, most impactful resolution, out of all the things you might want to do. Don’t let the good be the enemy of the great. Prioritise your goals and put all your energy and effort towards the top one.

Principles 

One of the best ways to prioritise your goals is by examining your personal principles. This is because we are much more likely to see through a decision if it is in line with our values. Understanding principles helps to answer why you want to see a resolution through.

And you need to be honest with yourself and find the underlying reason as to why you want to do something. We often mask our real reasons from ourselves or others, but if you want to succeed you need to be brutally honest with yourself. 

For example, your resolution might be to get fit. But why do you want to get into shape? Is it health, a desire to compete, a loss of body confidence or something else? Keep asking why until you really know the root motivation for what you are doing.

It is important to understand the why that underpins our motivation, as success in any goal or mission in life, is largely down to willpower. Our will is reinforced by beliefs, and our beliefs are reflected in our values and principles. If you have not thought about what your personal values are then that is a good thing to do before you choose any goal or resolution. 

Process

When you have identified your most important life goal and why you want to achieve it the next step is to create a process.

A process is just a series of steps. The best plans identify the next small step to take, making it easy to progress. The will to take the incremental steps that lead to success is down to discipline. But a process, and particularly a process that becomes a habit, helps to reinforce our willpower.

If you want to get fit have a plan. It is highly likely that whatever aim you set yourself, someone will have succeeded in it before. By definition that makes it a simple type of problem. A simple problem does not mean guaranteed success, but it does mean that other people have overcome the same issue. So, learn from them. Find the best practice for achieving that specific goal. Take that blueprint and make it your own. 

And don’t get disheartened if things don’t go exactly to plan or you struggle with your new habit. This is why most people fail in their resolutions. At the first setback, they decide to give up. Change your mindset. Take on a growth mindset: each failure is just a learning opportunity. Reflect on what happened and ask yourself, what went wrong? Creating new habits is a process of experimentation so analyse what happened and then try something new and go again. And again. And keep going. 

This is effectively the Kolb learning cycle. You do something (a concrete experience), you review what happened (reflective observation), you make your conclusions (abstract conceptualisation) and then you try out a new idea (active experimentation). If the only thing you succeed in this year is embedding this process into your mental toolbox, then you will have achieved something great no matter what!

People 

The final P is for people. We have already seen that other people can help by providing plans if they have already achieved the same thing that you want to. So, once you have decided upon your resolution, start by finding out who else has successfully achieved the same goal.  If you can, then compare different people’s approaches and work out which one would best work for you. Better still, speak to them in person, get their experience and advice first-hand.

Then find someone to be accountable to. You are much more likely to fulfil your resolution if you share your goal with someone else and ask them to keep you on track. That person could be a friend, a colleague or a coach; it just needs to be someone who will challenge you and not let you off the hook.

For example, when I was training for an ultra-marathon, I got a training partner. There were plenty of days when I did not feel like putting in the hard miles, but it was much harder to cancel a training session than do it when there was another person involved. The result was I trained effectively, and I successfully completed the race. Find someone who can do the same for you.

The 5 Ps of a successful New Year’s Resolution

There is no shortage of advice about New Year’s Resolutions, whether it is making them or avoiding them completely! But remember, a resolution is just a decision. You can make a decision to pursue a life goal at any time but there are some benefits to starting at the turn of the seasons. 

These 5 Ps will give you the best chance of achieving your aim:

  • Use the psychology of the New Year and new beginnings to your advantage
  • Prioritise what you want to achieve. Focus on the most important thing.
  • Make sure the goal is in line with your principles.
  • Create a process to reinforce your resolution. You need a solid habit to succeed.
  • Find people who can support you and keep you accountable.

And remember, don’t wait. Start thinking and planning now so you are ready for the New Year. Don’t leave it until you are drinking bubbly and singing auld lang syne! 

May you have a productive and successful 2022, fulfilling your resolutions and achieving your dreams! 

Season’s greetings and happy holidays!


This post was originally posted on Medium.

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