Think Small: How to achieve your New Year’s resolutions

Julia Fechter

Ah, the new year. Many of us celebrated it with much fanfare, fireworks, partying and, of course, the promise of yet another New Year’s resolution.

While our intentions may be well and good, we know it can be challenging to translate our goals into sustained action. However, there are several factors that you can consider in order to set yourself up for success.

Make it clear.

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Goals such as “I want to lose X amount of weight” are not necessarily the most specific. Psychology Today’s article “Making New Year’s Resolutions Work for You” pointed out that it can be hard to visualize achieving goals without considering, for example, what specific tasks need to be taken to lose that extra weight or when to complete those tasks.

So, think it through!

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Generally speaking, making a plan lends itself to greater intentionality. A 2015 National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) study* stated that people who evaluate their goals and abilities to carry out their goals more persevere more when facing challenges to those goals.

Want to do it.

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This tip may seem like common sense, but it is important to make sure that your goals for self-improvement are goals that you want to achieve. While it can be helpful to include others in your resolutions (more on that in a minute), Psychology Today also mentioned in its resolutions article that the best goals are those which match what we want and our ability to accomplish them.

Chunk it!

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Because it can often take time to create new habits and change bad ones, the American Psychological Association (APA) recommended on its resolution web page that people should chunk their New Year’s resolutions into measurable and manageable goals.


Practically, this can have many different applications. If you want to have healthier eating habits, then the APA recommends, say, start switching out dessert for foods like yogurt, fresh fruit or vegetables.


If you want to make more friends or start a romantic relationship with someone, then you might put yourself in a different environment-a club, class or building-that allows you to meet the person or people you want to meet.

Working on a schedule

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The SMART model of goal-setting includes “time-bound” as part of its structure. Time-sensitive, regimented small goals can help make achieving intermediate and long-term goals more realistic. As well, 10 to 30 minutes a day can be less stressful than, say, an hour per day. In fact, you may decide to not do things going toward your resolution every day. That is okay, too.

Side by side

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Accountability also plays a role in making goals, such as New Year’s resolutions, viable. While it does matter to make your own goals, as stated above, you also do not live in a bubble. There are family, friends, coworkers, teachers, etc. who can remind you of both your short and long-term goals.


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As well, it can help to periodically reward yourself for your efforts. Psychology Today dubbed that concept “carrots right now”. Give yourself credit-perhaps something tangible-for those short-term and intermediate goals. A little motivation can go a long way.

* The NCBI is a part of the National Library of Medicine, which falls under the National Institutes of Health.