Breaking the New Year’s Resolution Curse: How to Make the Most out of Your Goals

By: Kyle Haney, Ph.D., | Staff Psychologist

It’s January 1st and many people across the United States are waking up, ready to start 2019 and decide it’s “time to make a new year’s resolution!”  Whether it’s the decision to eat healthier, run the New York City marathon, give up chocolate, or connect more with family, we all start off the year energized and excited about the positive changes we are about to make in our lives.  Yet, surveys have shown that only 8% of people actually achieve their resolutions*.  So what happens?




Regardless of the hiccup, there are resolutions to your resolution troubles.  Perhaps our goal is a little too broad, and we aren’t sure about the specifics in making it happen.  Or perhaps our resolution was a bit too optimistic, and we gave up after a month because we didn’t see any progress being gained.  Here are a few easy ways to make the most out of your resolutions this year and make progress on your goals throughout 2019:

  1. Develop a goal that is important to you – While it would be cool to receive a medal of race completion at the end of the NYC marathon, if running or exercise isn’t that important to us, we are less likely to work hard in achieving that goal.  One way to increase our motivation to make progress on goals is to link them to bigger, overarching values in our lives.  So if health and wellness is an important aspect of our life, then developing goals consistent with this value, such as increasing exercise or reducing sugar intake may we worthwhile goals.  Or if we value beauty and creativity, a great resolution could be to visit more museums or art galleries.
  1. Make them SMART – And we don’t mean make goals that are necessarily intellectually stimulating.  In order to combat a goal that’s too broad, it can be helpful to develop resolutions that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-limited.  If we would like to exercise more, it can be helpful to define exactly what that means.  This could be going to the gym 3 times a week for one hour or attending 2 spin classes a week.  And when we make these goals, we want to make sure that it is doable and relevant to our current lives.  If we currently exercise zero times a week, we may not be most successful if we decide to exercise 7 times a week when making our resolutions. 
  1. Be kind to yourself when the going gets tough – There are inevitably going to be stumbling blocks along our path to making positive changes in our lives.  While it may be easier to be critical toward ourselves or just “give up” on the goal because it is too hard, it may be more helpful in the long run to be compassionate toward ourselves.  This can look like finding kind ways to speak to ourselves when we aren’t making the progress we like (“This is hard and I’m doing the best I can in this moment”).  Or this can look like thinking flexibly about our goals, which can keep us motivated to continue on the resolution path and build momentum with incremental changes.
  1. Remove the roadblocks early on – Before starting on the path toward our resolution, it can be beneficial to think about factors that get in the way of making progress.  Do you want to start eating organically, but aren’t sure where the closest organic grocery store is located?  Do you want to save more money each month, but don’t know the best way to do so?  Do you want to exercise more, but have a busy work schedule?  Figuring out what can get in the way of achieving our goals, and then developing a game plan to work around these barriers can increase our chances of success!

*Diamond, D. (2013). Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It.



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