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How to Make a Successful New Year’s Resolution

Hello and happy 2014, my friends! Let’s talk New Years Resolutions – specifically, how to make a successful new year’s resolution!

For most of us, today means back to the daily grind; it also means a fresh start after the fun indulgences of the holidays. As a Registered Dietitian with a nutrition counseling private practice, I’m all for people making decisions to change their lives in a healthy way. But that said: I’m not a big new year’s resolution person. I know that resolutions do work for some, but for me (and, I’ve found, for my clients), big resolutions, while made with good intentions, are often a bit broad and overwhelming and can be hard to translate into real action. As I hope I’ve shown on this blog, I believe much more in the power of small daily actions that lead up to something bigger.

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Whenever I have a nutrition counseling session with a client, we end the meeting or call with goal setting. I find that setting small daily or weekly goals really helps with making healthy living a lifestyle change vs. a quick fix — or a huge overwhelming goal that is never reached. I have my clients set 3 goals to work on until we talk again, and we make sure the goals are specific and measurable, focusing on daily action in the short term.

So – what am I talking about? Here are some examples of how to turn a broad resolution into a more specific action.

Resolution: “I will lose weight this year.”

Daily/Weekly Action: “I will eat at least one extra vegetable every day.” or “I will avoid products whose ingredient lists include things I don’t recognize or understand.” or “I will eat a healthy breakfast 5 out of 7 days of the week.”

Again, setting a daily or weekly action will help to make the overall end goal more reachable, because you have something specific and measurable to focus on. The original resolution will end up being a side effect of your long term behavior change.

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Resolution: “I will exercise more this year.”

Daily/Weekly Action: “I will schedule at least three workouts into my calendar every week.” or “I will run 3 miles twice per week.” or “I will go to yoga every Saturday morning.” or “I will sign up for and run a half marathon this spring.”

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This approach is applicable for non-health related resolutions, too.

Resolution: “Be a better friend.”

Daily/Weekly Action: “I will call 1 friend per week to catch up.” or “I will mail 1 handwritten card per month to a friend to brighten his/her day.”

I hope you can see that throwing out the broad, sweeping resolutions and working them into weekly or daily intentions can really help with making healthy life changes much more attainable and sustainable. It might help to set different goals every month, so you’re constantly challenging yourself and giving yourself new actions to work on. Most likely, the old actions will start to stick, and all those small changes will add up quickly to something big.

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What do you guys think — are you more of a resolutions person or a daily action person? Obviously changing your life for the healthier is a lot easier said than done, but I hope this approach might help some of you to translate your resolutions into action this year.

Did you set a New Year’s Resolution? What is it? And if you like the idea of daily action, what are some examples of how you can turn your original resolution into daily action? You can do this! :)

Have a great day everyone!

Comments

  1. 1

    I totally agree with you. I typically have one goal or focus for the year and this is pretty broad and then several smaller goals that I want to accomplish for the year. I’m pretty good at sticking with my goals, especially if it’s something that I REALLY want. Hope your new year is off to a great start!

  2. 2

    I’ve always loved making resolutions but naturally set them as these tangible, action-oriented goals you’re recommending. Otherwise how would you keep yourself on track? One of my resolutions, for example, is to unplug and be more engaged in the present moment. I’m doing this by keeping my phone away anytime I’m out with friends or eating meals alone. I love the new year for the spirit that anything is possible! It’s the closest we get to that “going back to school” September excitement as adults.

  3. 4

    I 100% agree with breaking down goals for a better new year’s resolution. I actually did a piece similar to this for a local news station. Setting mini goals and putting a plan in place always helps me to achieve the ultimate goal I am after :)

  4. 5

    You’re so right. These are great tips!

  5. 6

    I agree with you–I like to start with a broader goal, then come up with action steps. For example, this year my broad goal is to be less stressed. My action steps are to read the Bible and pray daily, and to take at least one picture of something that makes me happy every day. I also want to read 50 books for fun. These are all measurable goals that I know will contribute to my being less stressed overall.

  6. 7

    This is so true- large, terrifying resolutions set us up for failure. Love the small changes approach :)

  7. 8

    Love this! Happy New Year to you!

  8. 9
    Johanna B says:

    I try to set small goals in such a way that I am always able to feel successful. When I achieve one goal I decide if I need to keep working on that particular skill or set something new. I usually set 3 goals/week.

  9. 10

    I’m not a big resolutions person either. I find I tend to make them too general, like you said, and then it’s hard to follow through. This year I made a list of a bunch of goals/themes I’d like to focus on and I will focus on one each month. I plan to break them done even further to a weekly goal each month. Hopefully this will result in lots of new good habits formed over the course of the year. Great advice!

  10. 11

    I’m totally with you on this one, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and even wrote a post about it last week. Resolutions are long term- and you need goals along the way to help you get there. Resolutions are life changes, that you plan on keeping forever and not just a set amount of time. My biggest issue with the traditional resolutions is that people feel the need to wait until new years. It will be summer and someone will say “next year I want to do this” and I’m like “well whats stopping you NOW”.

    All in all wonderful perspective and post! Hope you had a great new years, cheers to healthy happy 2014!

  11. 13

    I love your thoughts on this, Anne! I guess my own thoughts are somewhere in between … I like thinking about the big goals, but I think it is highly unlikely that anyone actually achieves them unless they are combined with small, bite-sized steps to get there. So, it’s like combining your “Resolutions” with your “Daily Actions.” I also think having some way to remind yourself about your goal is critical – either posting it somewhere visible, or having a little “tracker” (my personal favorite) where you get to check off when you do something and celebrate mini-accomplishments!

  12. 14

    Yes! I think people come in with this big vision and they want to jump right in and then it becomes overwhelming and then we quit. We are a culture that seeks instant gratification so its really hard to make small changes and see the big change down the road as a positive consequence of all the hark work but it’s the only way that changes are SUSTAINABLE. Such wise words Anne!

    Happy New Year!

  13. 15

    Daily actions. I agree with your post 100%. I think more people have to look at their goals this way in order to not get discouraged!

  14. 16

    I completely agree that it is easier to start small and lead up to something bigger! I think many people make the mistake of making unattainable goals that just lead to disappointment. Starting small is a great way to prevent this disappointment.

  15. 17

    Great advice! I agree that your goals should always have a plan of action. Thanks for posting this!

  16. 18

    I did a mix of what you suggested this year! My exercise goal is to be active 5-6 days a week, but I’m planning on putting in personal fitness challenges over a week or a month as well…like building up to more than one push up at a time :)

  17. 20

    I very much appreciate your breakdown of resolutions vs. daily goals/actions. The smaller goals and actions definitely make follow through on a resolution possible, and will likely provide one with the platform for more lasting follow through after the resolution is reached.

  18. 21

    I really liked your examples for “being a better friend” :) I will try to do those this year! Sometimes it is hard to keep in touch and time just slips away from you!

  19. 23
    Roadrunner says:

    Nice, thoughtful piece, Anne, thanks! (But keeping my resolutions to myself!)

  20. 24

    Well my silly resolution is to stop taking more than 1 fork and spoon at the deli when I get my lunch. I’m a plastic cutlery hoarder at work! =)

    But the one thing I really want to make an actionable effort with is making my Tuesday runs more specific. Instead of just running 3, 4 or 5 miles I’m going to work hard at incorporating hill repeats, tempos and interval workouts. I think it might just be the one thing I can do to help me achieve my goal of finishing my next marathon 8 minutes faster. That and praying a whole lot that the stars are aligned on April 27 =)
    That breakfast pancake looks great!

  21. 25

    I love your approach to resolutions. It can be easy for me to get down on myself and come up with things I need to improve upon. But it is so great that you’ve thought of achievable goals to break down your intentions and make it more manageable. This definitely gives me a positive outlook for my 2014 goals:)

  22. 26

    I love this post! I hate the generic resolutions because like you said, they don’t translate. Of course I want to be healthier this year but finding small goals is the key.

  23. 27

    Thanks so much for the awesome post!! It really got me to thinking about my life changes (resolutions) for 2014. I just did a blog post about it!

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