Crafting Realistic New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on Dec 24 2012 - 11:00am by Jessica Johnson


new-years-resolutionDo you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you keep them?

Come about the third week of January, I start hearing from folks who have already broken their resolutions, and in many cases, these folks actually sound relieved. The relief, I suspect, is the result of no longer having to meet their own unrealistic expectations of themselves. Of course, this also means that they may no longer be motivated to affect significant and necessary changes in their lives.

To avoid this foolishness (and making resolutions that you can’t possibly keep is foolish) let me offer a modest proposal: Take a little extra time when crafting resolutions for 2013 and avoid the cycle of beginning the year with good intentions and then falling flat before the month is out.

Here are some tips for crafting New Year’s resolutions that you can stick with:

Figure Out What’s Necessary

If you’re going to commit to a serious change, make it a worthy one. While there are probably several things about you and your life that you’d like to address, it makes sense to resolve the one that has the most impact on your life.

For example, let’s say that you’d like to lose weight, get out of debt and learn to knit. All very legitimate concerns and desires, but some prioritizing is definitely in order. Let’s have a look at all three:

  • Weight loss: Yes, you could stand to lose about 20 pounds, but your doctor tells you are in otherwise good health and your weight has been stable for the past several years.
  • Knitting: A fun activity and it would be nice to have a new hobby, though right now you don’t have a lot of time for lessons.
  • Debt: While your weight may be stable, the interest on your credit cards isn’t. It’s growing and putting you deeper into the red. In fact, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have money to join a gym or pay for yarn until you get your finances under control.

What seems most necessary here is the debt issue: Once that gets resolved, you may have a much easier time making the other changes.

Figure Out What’s Reasonable

The word “resolution” carries with it a sense of finality and completion. If you are going to make a New Year’s resolution, it should be about a necessary change and you should have a reasonable shot at achieving it. If you are a new college graduate working at a modestly-paid job, resolving to save enough in one year for a down-payment on a house may simply be impossible, even if you are very careful with your money. A better approach would be to estimate the amount you might need to purchase a home in, say, four years, and crunch some numbers. While earning enough in a year to cover a down-payment may be impossible, a quarter of the needed amount may be very doable. The same principle can be applied to losing weight, paying down debt, or taking classes with an eye toward finishing your degree. Resolve to take steps, not leaps.

Learn From Others

You don’t have to go it alone with your resolutions, and no, I’m not talking about accountability, either. If you are looking to make some significant changes, it’s a good idea to talk to folks who’ve been successful at what you want to do. Ask these people about what they did to achieve the results that you’re after. This kind of knowledge can not only help you craft a realistic New Year’s resolution, but can also greatly increase your chances of success.

Have you made successful New Year’s resolutions? What were the secrets to your success?

 Jessica Johnson