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Keep Your New Year’s Resolution on Target

by Scot Chadwick

A New Year’s resolution can be a powerful force for good in your life. But most New Year’s resolutions fail within the first few weeks of the year. How are you doing so far?

While the phrase “new year, new you” sounds exciting, just deciding on something does not change your life. You still must do the work. Here are some ideas to help you keep on target with your New Year’s resolution.

Clarify Your Motivation

Take a moment to reflect on the excitement you felt when you first declared your resolution. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What was behind that emotion?
  • What influenced you to declare this goal?
  • Why do you want this?
  • Why should you pursue this goal?
  • Is this an ought-to or a want-to?
  • What are you willing you to do to get it?
  • Why should you not give up on your resolution?
  • What is at stake if you fulfill your resolution? What is at stake if you do not?

Just deciding on something does not change your life. You still must do the work.

Maybe you picked your resolution randomly, in the heat of the moment. Was it more of a whimsical fancy than a commitment you intended to pursue? Even so, recognize that off-the-cuff statements can indicate deep desires of the heart. Dreams and what-ifs can inspire you toward action even if you do not know the path forward.

Ultimately, if it is not essential to you, you will likely not do it. Your motivation needs to be strong enough to carry you forward to accomplish your goal.

Write Down Your Goal

While writing your resolution on the back of a paper towel or scrap paper is a good start, now is the time to make it formal. Writing out your goal forces you to clarify it. The written record can also serve as a reminder about your commitment to keeping you on track. It can also help you evaluate whether a new opportunity will add to or distract you from your intended course.

Keep your written goal at the forefront of your thoughts so it will influence your daily choices and actions. You could post it on your refrigerator door, bathroom mirror, car dashboard, computer desktop, and phone wallpaper. Set a variety of visual cues to help you keep on target.

Craft an Action Plan

Build an action plan by breaking down your goal into the strategic steps you must take to accomplish it. What must you be, do, and have to get it done?

Challenge yourself, but be reasonable about what you can accomplish.

Brainstorm your plan of attack. You could start with your goal and work backward from there to identify each concrete action step and establish a definite timeline. Challenge yourself, but be reasonable about what you can accomplish.

When possible, start with quick, simple actions rather than intense, hard ones. Fast results and rapid wins can encourage you to keep going. For example, you could decide to postpone scrolling through your social media feeds until you have had 15 minutes of physical activity.

However, depending on your goal, implementing small changes might not serve you well. For example, if you want to end an addiction, you might need to make a clean break from the situations that have influenced you toward your addiction. Merely making minor changes might keep you enslaved longer.

Avoid introducing too many changes at once. You could easily overwhelm yourself and stifle your action forward. Consider using smaller, strategic changes that will lead you to more significant results.

Create habits that lead you to complete your goal.

Create habits that lead you to complete your goal. Habits can liberate, or they can enslave. Perhaps you have some unhealthy habits you need to reduce or remove. Take small but deliberate and sustainable steps to foster healthy habits that will lead you toward your goal.

You might not need to use every action step in your list. You could use your alternatives when you encounter obstacles. You can also prioritize the different tasks to assign the order and intensity in which you will do them. Look for one change that could easily lead to other related changes.

Be Accountable

Assemble a supportive community around you as you work on your resolution. Your network might include your spouse or a friend, coach, mentor, trainer, or even a group. You can benefit from the reinforcement of others as they provide positive feedback, inspiration, counsel, and other help.

Keep your goal and your performance transparent with those who will help keep you on track.

Be discrete about sharing your resolution too broadly as it might mislead you into thinking you are farther along than you are. Work closely with those you trust and who will support your effort. Exercise personal responsibility and accountability as you pursue your goal.

Declare your resolution to your accountability partner and invite them to monitor your progress. Communicate with them regularly whether face-to-face, over the phone, through instant messages, through an accountability app, and other ways. Keep your goal and your performance transparent with those who will help keep you on track.

Start and Keep Going

What are you waiting for? You will never find the perfect time to start, and now is better than later. Conquer procrastination by following your action plan!

Conquer procrastination by following your action plan!

Learn as you go, but the important thing now is to get going. Be willing to do poorly at first and allow for trial and error. You will never know what you will learn and how you will grow until you start. Your skill and competence will increase as you go forward.

You do what you schedule, and life will crowd out your desired change if you let it. So, write in your daily and weekly calendar what is important to you. Postpone, delegate, or eliminate tasks that interfere with your resolution.

Expect some stumbling, setbacks, and obstacles along the path. You can push through your failures through sustained action. Follow your plan consistently and keep learning along the way.

Track Your Progress

Your goal and action steps should be measurable—you should know whether you did it or not. What can you do to track your progress? You could keep a checklist, create a spreadsheet, mark it in your calendar, or use an app.

Recording your routines allows you to monitor your performance regularly. You could share your progress report with your accountability partner to show your advancement toward your goal. Look for improvement, winning streaks, or times when stalling out. Your proven steady action toward your goal will reinforce your commitment to persevere.


After some time has passed, evaluate your goal and action plan to clarify, revise, or replace them. How are they serving you? What changes do you see in your life concerning your goal? How are you better, worse, or about the same as before?

If you regularly neglect an action step, consider simplifying it.

Expect to make course corrections when necessary to advance your success. If you regularly neglect an action step, consider simplifying it to make it easier to achieve. Also, avoid sticking with your original plan when you are not getting anywhere. Be willing to change your approach when necessary. The important thing is to do something consistent toward your goal.

Off to a Great New Year

Keep on target with your New Year’s resolution by clarifying why you want it and writing down your goal. Plan out your course of action and be accountable as you work through the process. Start now and track your progress. After some time, evaluate your performance and modify your plan so you can continue to live deliberately. Have a great new year!

Originally published on January 27, 2020

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