By Published On: January 1, 2013Categories: Therapy

What is your New Year’s resolution?

This is one of the fun points of turning the calendar — reflecting on the past year and considering our goals for the next 365 (or 366) days. I have heard many well-intentioned resolutions for healthy personal improvements: make new friends, eat less dessert foods, quit smoking, conquer a phobia, pay more attention to partners and loved ones, spend more time with children, go to the gym, increase dating life, save more money, spend money (for chronic savers), balance personal vs. career life, improve stress management, etc.

The list is continuous, but what is unfortunate is how often our New Year’s resolutions remain unfulfilled and are often forgotten by the time February rolls around. What is the trick to fulfilling our resolutions? Here are a few ideas:

1. Specify your Resolution

It’s important to be specific with goals. A vague goal usually won’t be or feel fulfilled. If your goals is to “eat less dessert foods”, make it more specific and measurable, so you’ll know when you’ve reached (and can then maintain) the goal. “Less dessert foods” is difficult to gauge. Perhaps the goal is to go from eating 3 desserty snacks per day to 1 dessert per day, after dinner only. Or maybe, as opposed to “treating my partner better”, a goal could be to do one thoughtful thing for your partner each day or week.

2. Create a Plan

Every goal needs objectives — small steps that take you to your goal. Write down what you want to accomplish as stepping stones to the goal. For example, if your goal is to run five days per week, the first step by the end of January could be to establish the time slot and begin to run at least one day per week. Maybe by the end of February you’ll want at least 2 days per week in a set time slot. If you want to quit smoking, the plan could be to reduce smoking by 1 cigarette per day, weekly.

3. Schedule Time

As alluded to above, allot appropriate time to attend to your resolution. If you want to read a new book every month, schedule reading time into your calendar. If you want to want to do more dating or spend more family time, make times/dates available in your calendar for this.

4. Tell a Friend

Ask a friend to check in on your resolution once in a while. Having someone else know about your resoluation makes it both more real (outside of only our minds), and makes us less likely to forget about it.

5. Set Reminders

Use computer or cell phone alerts, a post-it note on your computer or on the refrigerator, etc. These reminders will help to re-focus you towards your goal. Don’t overwhelm yourself with reminders — doesn’t need to be daily or everywhere you turn — but something in place to help you occasionally check in with your resolution.

6. Take the first step

Pushing ourselves into that first step is important to putting our plans into action. If you want to go to the gym, maybe look online to see what’s around, or go visit the local gyms, find out about different membership plans, etc. If you want to conquer a phobia, perhaps call a few therapists; if you want to spend more time with your friends, schedule something for the next date available, or merely create more space in your calendar for social time. The point here is to take the first active step to achieving the goal.

7. Pick a Reward

Setting an unrelated reward gives us something else to look forward to for fulfilling our resolutions. Not only do we get the fulfillment of our goal, which is already the big reward, but we also get a treat for sticking with it. Keep the reward unrelated to the resolution — if you’re trying to cut back on desserts, don’t make your reward a week of extra desserts! Set the reward in advance so you know what you’re working towards.

While some New Year’s resolutions are created with less forethought than others, there’s usually a reason that we come up with our specific resolutions. Hopefully at the end of the next year we can reflect with pride as we acknowledge the positive changes we’ve instilled in our lives.

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