How To Keep New Year’s Resolutions

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2020 is upon us and it’s time to think about making our resolutions for the New Year. Whether you want to go to the gym, wake up earlier, get outside more, or save a little extra money, January 1 is the perfect reset you need to make a positive change in your life.

After the excesses of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, many of us have the realization that something needs to change. We need to be healthier, move more, lose weight, and generally atone for all the good stuff we ate and drank over the holiday season. Those remorseful feelings send us out in droves to join the gym, sign up for fitness classes, and commit to weekly weigh-ins. Millions of self-help books are bought in January alone.

However, according to US News, some 80% of New Years Resolutions have been broken by the second week of February. All of those good intentions, all of the money spent on quick-fix solutions… over in just six weeks. It’s a depressing statistic, but if you’ve ever set yourself a resolution and broken it, you’ll know the feeling of failure and disappointment that can set in.

So how do you set a New Year’s Resolution and stick to it?

Well, the good news is – we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of 5 key points designed to help you set realistic goals and stick to them. Keep reading below to make this new year your best year yet!

1. Find the Right Motive

Have you ever heard this old joke?

How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Just one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.

It might be your typical bad dad joke, but where New Year’s Resolutions are concerned, it’s pretty accurate. The usual January suspects – going on a diet and joining a gym – are the resolutions most at risk of being broken after a couple of weeks. That’s because losing weight and getting fit require more than just a new member joining fee and some new kit.

In order to achieve these goals, you need more than just good intentions. Though you’ll start seeing tangible results eventually (in the mirror and on the scale) it will inevitably take time – and motivation – for that to happen. Try not to get disheartened if you don’t drop a dress size in two weeks, or you’re not the fastest member of the spin class. These resolutions can be stressful, and you’ll need to find ways to sustain motivation and manage your discomfort.

Instead of focusing on losing the most weight in the fastest time possible, think about the ways all the positive changes you are making will make life better. There’s no point in being the “fastest loser” if you can’t sustain the weight loss long term. Focus on feeling fitter, happier, and better about yourself. Think about how comfortable you’ll feel in your clothes, and how special it will be when you can treat yourself to something you never imagined wearing. Don’t be a slave to the number on the scale, but celebrate the small victories – receiving compliments, wearing a pair of jeans that were too small, walking up stairs without puffing – that will keep you motivated long term.

2. Companionship Without Comparison

Many people find it easier to stick to their goals and New Year Resolutions if they have the support of their spouse, family, and friends. After all, you can see the wisdom – overhauling your meal plan is much easier if you’re doing it together, because the temptation to “fall off the wagon” is less. Stick to a set meal plan, ditch the unhealthy snacks (as in, remove them from the house!), and don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. You’ll find yourself more likely to succeed if you remove temptation and find healthier alternatives that you actually enjoy.

In terms of going to the gym and attending classes like yoga and pilates, going with a friend can make it more likely that you’ll keep your resolution. Commit to meeting up, once or twice a week, and getting fit together. Even if you don’t enjoy the exercise, meeting up, reaffirming your goals, and encouraging one another means you are more likely to succeed.

Finding a companion to help support and encourage you in keeping your New Year’s Resolution is an entirely different beast to finding a competitor. Though a little friendly competition can help spur you on to do greater things (hello, encouraging fitness instructors!), measuring your progress alongside someone else’s can seriously affect your chances of succeeding. Seeing someone else achieve better or faster results can also be damaging to your mental health. If you’re a naturally competitive person, check in regularly to make sure your motivation is still self-improvement rather than beating someone else. At the end of the day, you’re working hard to feel fitter, better, and healthier in yourself.

Comparison isn’t just the super fit girl or guy who gains more muscle every day at the gym. Social media means people can project anything they want to online, and they tend to focus on success rather than failure. Do yourself a favor – if you’re following someone on Instagram and are feeling less than about yourself and your progress as a result, unfollow them.

3. Learn a New Skill

The vast majority of New Year’s Resolutions focus on having or using LESS rather than more, which is probably a root cause of their 80% failure rate. Rather than focusing on eating less, spending less, or decluttering your life, why not try something new, instead?

Learning a new language is an incredible challenge and may not be achieved within the course of 2020, but it’s a great thing to try. The benefits of learning another language have long been recognized: it will give you more confidence, improve your memory, make you more employable, and make travel more fun. If you’ve always wanted to learn Italian, wish you had continued Spanish lessons, or long to converse in fluent French, the new year is the perfect time to start fulfilling your dream.

If that sounds just like you, you aren’t alone. Learning a new language is high on the list of many people’s ideal New Year’s Resolutions. That’s why there are more new classes for beginners that begin in January and February than any other time of year. Check out your local college or cultural society for more information on language classes. If you don’t have time to check them out in person, consider an online course. Rosetta Stone, Babbel, and Duolingo offer long-established language courses, live tutorials, and proven results for those who commit the time to learning their chosen language.

Languages aren’t for everyone, but they also aren’t the only kind of skill either. Consider taking up computer coding, photography, sewing, or cake-making. It’s a great way to expand your knowledge of something you already enjoy, meet new friends, and even find your next passion. Many small businesses have been founded by those who tried their hand at a new skill, loved it, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

4. Set a Goal

Many of us are goal oriented, so honing in on a single event or series of events can give us the focus we need to succeed. Whatever your resolution, setting a specific goal can give you the motivation you need to keep going. These goals can be big or small, extremely personal or part of a larger group. Try not to set a goal because of competition, because as I mentioned before, that can decrease your chances of success and damage your self-esteem.

If you’ve decided to take up running or kick your existing running skill up a notch, consider entering an organized race. Allow yourself plenty of time to train, but also recognize that there is a suitable distance for everyone. It’s possible to go from your couch to running 5K in a matter of a couple of months, so please don’t be disheartened if you’re taking up running as part of other healthy lifestyle changes. Local organized runs in the park count just as much as city-wide marathons, because the ethos is the same. Push yourself harder, and continue to surprise yourself with the results!

Achieving a specific goal can be even easier if it comes from learning a new skill. As a reward for learning a new language, why not book a holiday? Try out your new-found conversational skills with locals and really immerse yourself in the culture you’re learning about every week. It’ll help with things like accent, acquiring vocabulary, and building your confidence.

New to sewing, cake-baking or photography? Aim to make a special celebration cake or item of clothing for a family member; or submit your photos to a local photography competition. It’ll give you a boost and allow you to see just how much progress you’re making.

5. Applaud Yourself

Stay in the 20% of New Year’s Resolution keepers by monitoring your progress and giving credit where credit is due. Making a commitment and promise to yourself to lose weight, start exercising, or learn a new skill is extremely difficult, stressful, and draining. Motivation can also be thin on the ground in the cold winter months, so try to find ways to reward and applaud yourself for all you have achieved.

If you’re working towards a healthier you by changing your diet, avoid rewarding yourself with food. Those who fail get into the mindset that if they are “good” all week, they can have a blowout at the weekend and eat and drink whatever they want. Unfortunately, this mentality leads to failure. Remember that, in diet as in everything, moderation is key. Treating yourself regularly, and modestly, will help keep your motivation levels high. You’re working hard – make time to pamper yourself, whether with a trip to the spa, a manicure or pedicure, or even some new gym gear. It’ll give you the lift you need to keep going.

Running or gym progress not happening quite as quickly as you’d like? Take the time to remember how far you’ve come. Keeping a record of how much you ran or worked out will help you realize just how much progress you’ve already made. Have a small notebook and pen handy, or use a fitness tracker, to take note of your times, number of reps, or weights lifted. If you’re feeling like progress is slow, take a look in your book and remind yourself of the days when you did half of what you’re now capable of.

Setbacks are all part of the process, whether you’re learning a new skill or not. Speaking a new language on that trip of a lifetime, baking a wedding cake, or wearing a dress you’ve made, are all huge achievements. In 6, 9, or 12 months you’ll be glad you started.

Cheers to the best year – and the best decade – yet!

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Natalie Seale

Natalie Seale is a writer, researcher, and editor for She holds an MA, MSc, and PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh, and has started two businesses since 2011. Natalie is an avid reader, a keen traveller, and enjoys cooking and walking with her English Spaniel. Her posts focus on inspiring others to live healthy, happy, and active lives.