How to Set Realistic New Year's Resolutions

New Year, New You: How to Set Realistic New Year's Resolutions


"The New Year stands before us, like a chapter in a book waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals,"- Melody Beattie

With the New Year upon us, many of us have begun to reflect upon the past year and identify areas within our lives that we wish to improve. We often view the New Year as a time to make extensive character changes. We find ourselves entering into the New Year feeling hopeful and excited. However, when the reality of our goals sets in, we may be left feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. The University of Scranton (2002) provides statistical data on our New Year resolutions: 

New Year’s Resolutions Statistics

  • Percent of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions                      45%
  • Percent of Americans who infrequently make New Year’s Resolutions               17%
  • Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolutions                   8%
  • Percent of people who have infrequent success                                               49%
  • Percent that never succeeds and fails on their resolutions each                       24%

Length of Resolutions Maintained:

  • First week                                                                                                       75%
  • Two weeks                                                                                                      71%
  • One month                                                                                                      64%
  • Past six months                                                                                               46% 


Based upon this information, it appears that half of the people who make New Year resolutions fall short of maintaining them within 6 months. Where does the problem lie? As stated before, we often use the New Year as a catalyst for extreme change. This type of thinking may cause you to feel hopeless when your goals become unattainable or unmanageable. Perhaps it is this outlook that is leading to missed goals and disappointment. 

Rather than striving to make major life changes, you may find more success in reflecting upon the year and identifying areas in which you can make sustainable positive life changes. 


Goal Setting Tips for Your New Year Resolution

Make Realistic Goals

When identifying areas in which you would like to change, keep in mind the size and reality of your goals. Setting realistic goals that you can keep will help you maintain your new habits. For example, if you would like to work out more consistently, schedule three days a week as opposed to seven.

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

Unhealthy habits or behaviors that you have developed over time take time to change! Rather than attempting to tackle a handful of lifestyle changes, try focusing on one behavior change at a time. By focusing on one thing at a time, you may find that you feel a lot less overwhelmed.

Be Specific & Set Milestones

People who set broad goals may be faced with more difficulties when trying to reach them. Rather than setting a goal to “lose weight,” be more specific with your goal setting. Try establishing a goal to “lose 5 pounds.” By making specific goals, you may find yourself more easily motivated, as you are able to judge whether you’re getting closer to achieving it. In addition, setting short-term milestones can help you stay on track and make your end goal more manageable.

When considering your New Year resolutions, a useful way of establishing your goals is to use the SMART goals method:

S – Specific

M - Measureable

A – Attainable

R - Relevant

T – Trackable/Time-bound

Acknowledge Actions as Progress

When working towards your goals, it is important to acknowledge and pride yourself on steps taken to achieve them. If your goal is to lose five pounds, you may get discouraged if you do not immediately see results. In this scenario, it may be helpful to note the actions you have taken to reach your goal: the amount of days you have worked out or the changes you have made to your diet.

Make Your Goals Heard

If you just think about the things that you would like to achieve, they are more easily dismissed, forgotten, or changed. Try making your goals feel more concrete by writing them down or talking about them with others. The act of making our goals material and discussing them with others makes them seem real. In addition, this gives you the opportunity to visually see and reflect upon the things you want to achieve.


Set yourself up for success!

As the New Year begins, take some time to reflect upon the past year and identify the areas of your life where a positive change can be made. When contemplating and goal setting for the year, keep the tips above in mind. 


If you need help achieving your goals and maximizing your physical and mental wellness, visit Clarity Clinic's Chicago psychiatry and therapy office today.


Author: Stephanie Ballard, CADC


Melody Beattie. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2016, from Web site:

Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers, by John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo, Matthew D. Blagys , University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 4 (2002)

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