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How to set New Year’s resolutions that actually stick

Here are some tips to turn your new year goals into a reality.

Group of friends gathered on Sydney harbour to celebrate the New Year's Eve on December 31, 2022. (Photo by Roni Bintang/Getty Images)
New Year's resolutions are a great way to make a fresh start. (Source: Getty)

No matter your feelings about the new year, it’s hard to deny it brings about a sense of hope. The energy of a fresh start or a clean slate can really propel you to finally get started on that new habit, project or pursuit.

But as our social feeds get cluttered with lofty promises and infectious goals that leave us choking on overflowing motivation, how do we make it last?

The key is to skip the one-off promises and focus on repetition and routine.

Don’t set resolutions, set routines

The reason so many New Year’s resolutions fall apart is because they’re not repeatable, and they don’t fit into our everyday routines. They sound nice in theory but, without that overflowing motivation that can only be found in the crevices of early January, they don’t stick.

Also by Emma Edwards:

Saying you’re going to run a marathon sounds great when you’re still neck deep in mince pies and annual leave but how will that resolution hold when you’re back working long days and doing the school run? It absolutely can work, but words alone aren’t enough to make it happen.

I see this disconnect happen a lot with financial resolutions, too. It’s one thing to say you want to save $10,000 but that can’t happen if you’re living the same life that saw you not save $10,000 last year.

To make your resolutions stick, we need to push them through a clarity framework that grounds them in reality.

How to turn your resolutions into routines

Start with your stock-standard resolution. This becomes our umbrella. Then, it’s time to refine.

Break down what actions need to happen in order for you to fulfill that resolution or goal. Do you need to spend less? Earn more? Get up earlier? Drop a commitment?

We need to focus on two types of actions. Actions that create the space in your life for the goal to be realised, and actions that directly relate to the goal. Looking at what stopped you achieving this goal sooner can help you unlock some of your blind spots.

For example, getting up an hour earlier creates the space for you to train for that marathon.

Going for a run actually gets you marathon ready.

The ‘how’ funnel

To make sure you’re being clear enough about your action points, try pushing them through a ‘how’ funnel.

For example, you say you’re going to go for a run every day.

How?

By getting up earlier.

How?

By laying out my running clothes the night before.

How?

I’ll need to do a weekly wash of my running clothes on a Sunday evening.

And now we’ve got much clearer visibility on what needs to go into this goal.

Take daily, weekly and monthly action

From here, we can create routines that anchor your resolution or goal into your real life. Take those actions and break them down into things that need to happen daily, weekly, and monthly.

What can you do each day, week, and month to support this goal?

To seal the deal on your resolution, plot your actions out into routines that make your actions easily repeatable. If you’ve said you’re going to stop buying lunch at work to free up some money for your $10,000 goal, build out your new daily routine that factors in packing your lunch at home.

If you’ve said you’re going to get up at 5:00am to go for your training run, plot out your average weekday with a run. Do you have enough time to shower? Will you need to eat before or afterwards? Do you need to pack your work clothes the night before? What if it rains?

Breaking your goals down into these micro-actions can feel tedious – and that’s the point.

When the motivation high of January wears off and it’s just you, your running shoes, and a stinking-hot, 40-degree day outside, you need systems and routines that are built for that goal to become a reality.

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