How to set effective New Year Resolutions

“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new beginning.”

~ Carl Bard


With New Years Eve fast approaching and the end of 2016 in sight, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the year gone by and contemplate what you want from the coming 12 months. News Year Resolutions can divide opinion on whether they are useful or not. My view is, why not use the feeling and motivation of a fresh start that a New Year can provide to re-establish your goals and set yourself on the journey to becoming your best self, creating the life you imagined.

I think it’s pretty straight forward, if you’re totally happy and content with your life as it is, then continue on your current path. If you are not happy or there are elements of your life you are not satisfied with, then set about changing it. Only you can do that. You can create the vision for how you want your life to be, then set your goals to allow you achieve that vision. New Year is a perfect time to do this, although obviously there is nothing stopping you doing this at any time of the year.

So, how do you decide what your New Year Resolutions should be:

1) Assess your values and beliefs

The first thing to do when you are deciding on your goals for the year is to assess your values and beliefs. You can do this by creating your Book of Life, or if you have already created this, by doing your annual review of it. This is a collection of all your values, beliefs, aspirations and thoughts about the world. It can help to start off here, when contemplating what you want the following year to hold for you.

2) Assess your life vision

In order to decide what you want to achieve in the next 12 months, it can help to assess your longer term vision, so your short term goals fit in with that. You can do that by creating a vision board, or if you already have one, by reviewing it and adding any elements you want to add.

3) Take time to reflect on the past 12 months and review your lessons learnt

Work through the lessons you have learnt over the past year. Think about what your life has been been like, what went well and whether there are there any elements you would like to change. Assess whether your life is heading in the direction you had imagined it would. If it isn’t, consider what is missing and whether there is anything you would like to do differently. Decide what valuable lessons you learnt from the last 12 months and how you will apply them over the next 12 months.

4) Ask yourself how you would like to grow and become better

Spend time considering which areas would you like to develop. Analyse which elements of your life you feel motivated to change. To become the best version of yourself, there may be some things you’d like to get better at, or to change about your life, decide what area you would like to focus on improving.

5) Write down each goal in a positive statement

Next you should write your goals down. Writing goals down helps to cement them and in turn commit more fully to them. The way you word your goals can have a huge effect on your motivation towards achieving them. It can be much more effective to express them in a positive way. Write them in a way that you set yourself up to achieve, rather than to avoid failure.

6) Keep it short

The problem with New Year Resolutions is that we can be tempted to make a huge long list of all the things we would like to change. It can become so overwhelming, it makes it very difficult to achieve any of them, never mind all of them! When you make a short list, you can focus in more fully on the things that really matter to you. Where I have been most successful in the past with achieving my goals is when I have had one main theme that I break down over a number of months.

7) Focus on permanent habit change

The reason most New Year Resolutions aren’t successful is that we have a long list of things we want to change and we rely on willpower alone to make these changes. You only have a limited amount of willpower and if you have a long list of goals requiring some significant life changes then you may not be able to muster up enough of it to stick to these changes. The trick is to form a permanent habit change that becomes a way of life. Gretchen Rubin is an expert on developing habits. I highly recommend her book Better Than Before for focusing on how to implement permanent habits.


So there you have it. A comprehensive list of how to set your goals for the next year. This year I am choosing one theme that I am going to break down and explore each month. My theme for 2017 is ‘To take care of my health’. I have had the most success of achieving my goals in the past when I have focused on just one thing, given it my full attention and tried to build permanent habits from it. Over the course of the next 12 months I will focus on one thing each month including alcohol, food, exercise, sleep, mindfulness, relaxation and general well-being. Using the techniques Gretchen Rubin uses in the Happiness Project of working on one thing at a time and making those changes stick, I will explore what changes I can make to ensure that my health is my number one priority.

Let me know how you get on with making your resolutions and what your goals for 2017 are in the comments below.


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