How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions (For Once!)

You start the new year so full of hope. There’s the excitement for new possibilities and a fresh start. Hopes and dreams for the future. New plans that you can’t wait to see come true.

But then… a few months pass you by and… nothing happens. Yet again, your New Year’s Resolutions got left behind.

What if, this new year, you actually stuck to your intentions? This is how to keep your New Year’s Resolutions.

The problem with New Year’s Resolutions

If I had to sum up how New Year’s Resolutions make me feel with one word it’d be stressed.

Research has shown that just 9% of Americans keep their New Year’s Resolutions. And I expect that’s true for the rest of the world too.

So for the 91% of us that miss the mark, we’re left feeling unprepared, like we’re behind before we’ve even begun the year. As though we haven’t done enough.

But here’s the important thing to remember: it’s not your fault.

New Year’s Resolutions are essentially a glorified to-do list. They’re written at a time when everything feels possible, without any of the time or energy to create a practical plan to bring them to life.

Instead, you’re left making huge changes in a very short timeframe. Re-organise your entire life in the first week of January, after a busy holiday period that’s left you exhausted? Check!

New Year’s Resolutions are big lofty goals that aren’t remotely broken down into practical steps to achieve along the way. It’s about time we fixed that.

How to keep your New Year’s Resolutions

If you want to keep your New Year’s Resolutions, don’t make them! Or rather, do make them but take a slightly slower approach.

As you’ve already read, you’re setting yourself up for failure if you go into the new year all guns blazing, with a mile long list of goals and no clear plan to bring them to life.

When you’re constantly missing out on your goals, you’re only going to become less motivated. You’ll stop chasing your dreams. And that’s the last thing I want for you.

I quit making New Year’s Resolutions in 2017 and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Instead, I made the switch to a Word of the Year. Which is woven into my goals, allowing me to actually achieve them. And wow, that feels good!

Introducing: the Word of the Year (aka the key to keeping your New Year’s Resolutions)

The Word of the Year has a simple concept. Choose one word and let it be your guiding star for the year ahead.

You have 365 days to embody this word and bring it to life in all that you do. Every time you go to make a decision or start a new activity, you check in with this word to ensure that you’re on the right track.

And by the time the year’s up, that one focus has become a habit. So, the next year, you can choose a new word and keep on learning and growing. Read on to find out how to use it.

A new approach to New Year’s Resolutions (that you’ll keep!)

Step one – slow your process down

For me, the end of the year and the holiday season is all about spending time with my family, switching off and enjoying some downtime (all part of my core values). The last thing I want to be doing is writing down a list of New Year’s Resolutions.

Instead, January is my month for easing into the year ahead.

I spend some time reflecting on the previous 12 months. I’ll explore what I loved, what I hated, what I want to see more of and what I want a little less of.

For example, in 2023, my Word of the Year was “wellbeing”. Before I sat down to reflect, I’d assumed that I hadn’t done anything to fulfil this goal. But after giving myself some time and space to think back, I saw that I had.

I’d tried intermittent fasting, learnt more about my hormones and the perimenopause, fine-tuned my energy levels throughout the week with exercise and even worked on my financial wellbeing too.

So slow down, celebrate a little. And allow yourself the time to think back and use those lessons to bring you into the year ahead.

Step two – create the space to reflect on your year

Before you can look forward, you need to look back. Here’s the process I follow, step by step:

  1. Revisit your previous Word of the Year (if you have one) and ask yourself:
    1. How did it go?
    2. What did I learn?
    3. What was the most important lesson that I want to take into next year?
  2. Review your goals from last year:
    1. What did I tick off?
    2. What wasn’t achieved? 
    3. Why wasn’t it achieved?
    4. Is it still relevant now?
  3. Review your financial accounts from the previous year:
    1. Did I achieve my financial goals?
    2. If not, why?
    3. What does my investment portfolio look like?
    4. What might I need to change?

Once you’ve done all that, you can start thinking about the upcoming year. It doesn’t need to be neat and organised right away.

Instead, you can simply jot down what you might want to achieve in the same key areas:

  1. Word of the Year
  2. Goals
  3. Financial Goals

Step three – when you’re stuck, try this

Sometimes, your new goals or your Word of the Year might be a little harder to find. When this happens, reflect first. Put aside some time to sit down and look back at what you’ve done over the year.

See what you managed to tick off, what didn’t get done, and then assess if the items that didn’t get done still need to be done or have your goals changed for the upcoming year.

I tend to do this exercise of listing down what the overarching goals are that I want to achieve in the upcoming year (these aren’t too dissimilar to New Year’s Resolutions! The process is just a little more strategic).

Once you’ve done that, you can then think of a few words that would help you achieve these goals. This will give you an idea of what you want to achieve as well as a list of possible Words of the Year.

Now, let it sit and leave it for a few days before revisiting your list of goals and Words of the Year.

Step four – let it all process

This is when you can fine-tune your goals and make a shortlist of no more than three Words of the Year.

I give myself some time to let these process. Once I’ve decided that the reflecting and thinking has been done, I then go through my goals and start breaking them down into the actions and tasks I need to do to achieve each goal.

I also decide on my Word of the Year and put it somewhere on my desk where I can see it each day. That way, it’s easy to keep checking in on a) your progress and b) whether it’s the right word.

That process can take up the whole month of January. Which is 100% okay! There’s no rush when you’re creating a plan that you’re actually going to bring to life. You want to make sure it’s the right one.

Give yourself a strong start to your New Year with your free SWOT guide

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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.