With the end of a year and the beginning of another one, many of us set new goals for ourselves. But we also know that 90% of people who set themselves a New Year’s resolution fail. Existing routines, habits and commitments are difficult to break. 

Life also gets in the way. Work pressures, family commitments and social engagements make it difficult for us to make the necessary changes to fulfil our new goals. 

But there are things that you can do to make your new New Year’s resolutions stick.

Get a head start and review your victories and challenges of the past year

To start, review the year that’s gone. A few questions to ask yourself are:

​◦   What can I do now that I couldn’t do at the start of the year? (What have I learnt?)

◦   What has inspired me? (E.g., a speaker at a conference, a book, a podcast etc.)

◦   What new connections have I made? (Through networking, LinkedIn, new hobbies or volunteering.)

◦   What problems have I solved?

◦   Where have I made the most progress? 

◦   What am I most proud of?

◦   What disappointments have I overcome?

◦   What investments have I made in myself?

◦   What would I like more and less of next year? 

Every year has good moments, no matter how challenging it is

If you didn’t achieve all your goals last year, it doesn’t mean that you didn’t have a successful year. Keep in mind that the coming year, just like the last one comes with its own challenges. 

Sometimes we have to switch priorities because other things in life get in the way. This could be because you have to deal with bereavement, family crises or health problems. It’s essential that you stay flexible and able to switch your priorities at times like these. Focus on what is important to you right now and tackle your goal later on when you have time and energy to focus on it.  

So, I’d like you to think about what things other than your goals you’ve achieved or accomplished in the past year. Use this insight as a guide when planning and deciding what goals you would like to achieve for the year ahead.

Set SMART Goals to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions

To give yourself a bigger chance to achieve your new goals, create SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Relevant; and Timely.

  • Specific: You have a much greater chance of achieving a specific goal than a general one. Make sure your goal is clear so that you know exactly what you need to do, why it’s important and who’s involved. A vague goal is, for example, “I want to eat healthier”. To make it more specific, write down what eating healthier will look like for you.   
  • Measurable: Establish concrete criteria to measure your progress towards achieving your goal. When you can see yourself moving forward towards your goal, you feel excited. This encourages you to keep going and it helps you stay on track. 
  • Attainable: Your goals must be realistic and attainable. The best goals require you to stretch yourself a bit to achieve them, but not enough to paralyse you with fear. If you have big goals, break them down into smaller, achievable steps. Creating milestones for long-term plans will make them into reality. 
  • Relevant: To be relevant, a goal must represent a target towards which you are willing and able to work. You might find that a challenging goal is quite easy to meet because you are passionate about achieving it. You pull out all the stops to get there. And you might fail to achieve a fairly easy goal because you don’t want it badly enough.
  • Timely: A goal should have a time frame and a target date for completion. Commitment to deadlines will help you to focus your efforts to complete your goal. Goals without deadlines or schedules tend to be overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in daily life. This is why many New Year’s resolutions fail.

10 more tips to give yourself a bigger chance of success

With the SMART goals as a basis, here are 10 more tips on how to make your New Year’s resolutions stick this year. 

  1. Write down your goals on paper: Science has shown that it increases your chance of achieving them.  
  2. Write your goals in a positive way: Instead of focusing on the negatives you want to avoid, focus on the positives you want to achieve. For instance, instead of saying: I’m going to eat a healthy lunch to avoid my afternoon slump. You can say: I will eat a healthy lunch to have more energy in the afternoon.   
  3. Don’t set more than 3 goals: Setting a limited amount of goals will ensure that you focus on them and achieve them. You can always add more during the year if you’ve accomplished what you wanted. Also, make sure they’re not conflicting goals. 
  4. Celebrate milestones: When working towards a big goal, setting smaller goals is the key to success. Celebrating these milestones helps you continue working towards achieving your goal. 
  5. Ask for help: Sometimes we need help to be able to achieve our goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help where you lack expertise and could do with some help.
  6. Talk about your goals for accountability: Tell people around you about your goals. They will keep asking you about your progress and it will make you accountable to work towards your goals. 
  7. Surround yourself with positive people: Surrounding yourself with people with a can-do attitude will make it much easier for you to achieve your goals. Their enthusiasm will simply rub off on you! 
  8. Increase your confidence: Many people fail to achieve their goals because they don’t believe in themselves. They might feel that they are not worth the success they are working towards. Increasing your confidence will help you reach your goals. 
  9. Goals can change: If you find yourself no longer interested in achieving your goals, it’s OK to adjust them. You can also find new ones that align with your values and motivation.  
  10. Celebrate your achievements: Always celebrate what you have achieved, no matter how big or small.  

I hope these tips will help you to dream big but stay flexible. These last two years have shown us that we need to be adaptable and adjust to the situation in our lives. 

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by Marie Dewulf – photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash