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How to Achieve New Year's Resolutions — Not Just Make Them

How to Achieve New Year's Resolutions — Not Just Make Them

There is a saying making the rounds on social media that reads:

“My goal for 2018

…Is to accomplish the goals of 2017…

Which I should have done in 2016…

Because I promised them in 2015…

And planned them in 2014.”

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there! Research has found that only 9% of people stick to New Year’s resolutions. If you want to avoid being part of the 9%, try taking these steps:

1. Don’t just dive headlong into making resolutions — define your long-term goals. Categorize your life into different areas such as finances, relationships, career or business, mental wellbeing and health, and then determine what you’d like to achieve over the next five to ten years.

[Related: Three Counterintuitive Ways To Get Back On Track With Your Goals]

2. Reflect on the previous year by answering the following questions:

  • How did you do in those areas?
  • What went well in these categories?
  • What went poorly?
  • What were the most significant occurrences of the year?
  • Why did you get those outcomes? This question is key. It's theoretically simple to answer, but practically difficult because it requires real reflection.

3. Given the deeper understanding you have of what drove last year’s results, consider what you need to do differently next year to get the best possible outcomes. Take on board why you got those outcomes last year to formulate more appropriate resolutions or measures.

For instance, you may have lacked discipline in adhering to an exercise regime. If that was because you didn’t like the forms of exercise you picked, try something you enjoy! Or if you struggled to get started, find someone to give you accountability or, better yet, join you.

4. Now you can create annual resolutions that are achievable and align with your long-term goals by deciding on milestones that you want to meet throughout the year. University College London has found it takes 66 days on average to form new habits. You can use this to your advantage by phasing progression of your resolutions or staggering when they start, so you don’t end up overwhelmed.

5. Break down the first quarter and make an overall plan for January, with a more detailed plan for the first week and specific actions for the days. Continue creating tangible plans at monthly, weekly and daily levels that you formulate throughout the year.

[Related: Should Leaders Make Resolutions?]

When you do this, look back and do a mini-review of what’s been achieved and what you need to learn from, so your planning will improve. You can use planners such as the Best Self Journal to structure your thoughts.

Reward yourself for small wins and remember consistency is far more important than perfection. If you can meet your goal 70-80% of the time throughout the year, you’re far more likely to succeed than if you meet it 100% of the time and give up after the first hurdle. And don’t forget to get support if needed.

This year use reflection; learn from the past and form new habits to make 2018 the year you achieve your New Year’s resolutions.


Karlene Agard is a risk and value management specialist who focuses on starting megaprojects for success. She has worked on multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects and programs, including Crossrail 2 and Thameslink.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.