5 Tips for New Year’s Resolution Success

It’s that time of the year again – the END OF IT! The New Year often brings about an array of thoughts and feelings. We are often excited about closing out the new year. We look forward to the celebrations with friends and family. We anticipate the notorious countdown and the ball dropping in Time Square, that is, if you can stay up that late. We do all these ritualistic activities to help us gear up for the new year. Very exciting, right?

Well, along with the excitement, we often experience more complicated emotions like, fear, dread, and maybe even, sadness. After all, the new year reminds us that we are a year older. It reminds us that another year has passed and there is still so much to do and accomplish. This is particularly disheartening for those who are struggling to keep their heads above water. All that to say, in addition to joy and excitement, we also are faced with some hard realities when it comes to starting a new year.

And, if that is not hard enough, there are three words we often dread as the new year approaches – NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION! Yuck! For many of us, these three words have left an awful taste in our mouths because year after year we tackle these goals with all the optimism of the world, but only to be met with disappointment as, one-by-one, they start falling through the cracks. Sadly, many have just given up on them because they haven’t figured out a way to succeed.

I want to challenge you by saying this: TO GIVE UP ON NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS IS TO GIVE UP ON DREAMS AND AMBITIONS! If you’re reading this, I hope to revive your dreams and add fuel to your ambition! I hope you’ll take this challenge and share this with your friends and family to encourage them to NOT give up on themselves. You’re worth the effort!

Often times, when we are struggling to accomplish something, we just need a little structure. That is what I have done here for you with these 5 TIPS for NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION SUCCESS. (download the PDF New Year’s Resolution Worksheet).

Disclaimer: This does not mean that achievement of your goals will come easy, as most things in life worth striving for requires some level of blood, sweat, and tears; but, it can help you by adding structure thereby eliminating ambiguity. So here we go!

Choose a THEME for the year

Think about what you want this year to be about for you. Throw away the notion that you have to be all things everything all the time. That is too overwhelming and extremely unrealistic. Pick one or two themes that you want to make your life about in the upcoming year. This doesn’t mean you neglect other roles and responsibilities, but it does mean that much of your extra effort and investment will specifically fit within your theme(s) and goals.

Make your goals TANGIBLE and ACHIEVABLE

I believe many resolutions fail because people are too vague in their goals. They say, “I want to lose 50 lbs” or “I want to be more successful at work.” These goals are too ambiguous, and in my opinion, shallow. I encourage you to make your goals reflect something that will help you potentially “feel good” long-term. Thus, instead of saying, “I want to lose 50 lbs” you, instead, might say, “I want to work up to going to the gym 3x a week, running 1x a week, prepping lunches for work 5x/week so I don’t eat fast-food.” When you set goals like this, you’re ultimate measuring stick is FEELING GOOD, but maybe you’ll lose some weight and inches in the process as a fortunate byproduct.


In the aforementioned example, notice how I said “work up to.” This implies a progression. After you set your goal, write down some objectives with a 6-12 week dead line for each. For example:

Objective A: Join a gym. Download workout app. Schedule 1-2 weekly visits. Run 1 mile on Saturdays. Shop for lunches on Sunday evenings. Prep lunches for M/W/F. Target: 6 weeks.

Objective B: Schedule 3-4 weekly visits to gym. Daily activity logging on workout app. Run an average of 2-3 miles weekly (Saturdays were a bad idea, Friday evening are better). Target 6 weeks.

Objective C: Re-evaluate goals and objectives.

As you can see, these objectives are specific and detailed. But they aren’t perfect. In objective B, you see I made a change to the running schedule and I added an average distance. Sometimes being too rigid can lead to discouragement and feelings of defeat because your initial plan proved to be too difficult. You may also notice a re-evaluation objective. It is crucial that once you meet your goal that you don’t simply forget about it. You will need to either create a maintenance plan or a plan for continued growth.


Accountability is HUGE! One thing I have realized when it comes to my successes and accomplishments is that I NEVER did it alone! I ALWAYS had help; and I ALWAYS had some level of accountability. When I think upon my failures, I usually was trying to go about it alone with little to no accountability. Thus, to be successful with your New Year’s resolutions, you’ll need to recruit your accountability team. These people need to be 2-3 trusted and safe individuals that will support you in this endeavor. However, for their benefit, they will need to know specifically how you would like them to support you. So, before you bring an individual on as part of your team, answer the following questions:

  1. Has this person earned the right to be part of my accountability team?
  2. What qualities or characteristics does this person have that you believe will help you on this journey?
  3. How would you like them to serve as part of your accountability team? Be specific.

WRITE it all down

This element is also crucial to success. As long as the plan stays in our head, we allow ourselves room to renege. I believe that keeping the plan in our heads is our back up plan to our unspoken expectation that we will once again experience another year of failed resolutions. When you put your plan down in BLACK and WHITE, it helps to eliminate ambiguity and make it more real. Writing down your plan is the equivalent of saying to yourself, “Well, I guess I’m doing this thing!” To help you out here, I have attached a New Year’s Resolution Worksheet that you are more than welcome to download, print, and redistribute.

Bonus Tip: Be flexible with FAILURE

I think it is important to start off in the right frame of mind. A wise man (maybe Yoda??) once said that failure is our best teacher. I couldn’t agree more. Thus, don’t be so rigid with this plan that you don’t expect to experience any struggles or set-backs. In counseling, therapists often use an intervention we call “predicting a setback.” Realistically, we can never predict exactly how a setback will manifest, but when we try, we prepare our minds for the probability of one occurring, because they WILL happen. So, with your goals in mind, try to predict what a setback might look like, then decide how you will handle them. Make sure you share this with your accountability team.

I hope this information will help you experience more success with your New Year’s goals, but also with your life goals. Life is a journey that is paved with our successes and failures as well as the successes and failures of those who have gone on before us. The question is: Have you stalled out or do you still have enough left in the tank to continue the journey?

As always, if you feel like you are stuck in life, I encourage you to seek out a professional counselor in effort to get your life moving again. Peace and blessings to you.

Joshua Nichols
Licensed Marital & Family Therapist

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