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How to Set New Year’s Resolutions that Stick!

By December 26, 2020Blog

By Audrey Jaynes


It can be tempting to want to make a dramatic change in our lives when the New Year rolls around. And it makes sense that it would; a new year feels like an opportunity to let go of the past and start anew. With the stress of 2020 still looming over us, identifying and setting resolutions for the upcoming year may take on more meaning for some than it has in the past.

If you’re looking to 2021 as a fresh start and are ready to make some changes in your life, read on.

While New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep, here are some tips that can set you up for success:


Think Small


Rather than envisioning yourself as an entirely new person once the clock strikes 12am on January 1st, start small—and know that momentum will naturally build over time.

Consider identifying a few areas in your life in which you would like see improvement. Perhaps you want better health, finances, or relationships.

For each area, we recommend choosing one actionable, attainable goal. Start by writing each goal down. Once you have a short list of resolutions—no more than three—go through and cut each one in half. This may sound drastic, but if you want to make significant change, starting smaller is always better. Baby steps are more sustainable—and by focusing on incremental change, you are more likely to feel like you’ve succeeded and can put your energy towards developing consistency.

For example, rather than setting a resolution to lose 20 pounds, make it actionable and incremental. You might resolve to run for 10 minutes, three mornings a week. After you’ve built consistency, natural momentum will keep you going.


Assess your Motivation


Once you have your list of resolutions, it is important to pause and consider your motivation. We do this by reviewing the costs and benefits for implementing each of your resolutions.

Go through your list and, for each goal, write everything that comes to mind—starting with the costs and ending with the benefits. Be specific and exhaustive. When you’re done, give each column—not each cost or benefit—a weight on a scale from 1-100. If the costs outweigh the benefits of a particular resolution, you may need more time before you’re ready to act. Think up a new resolution and come back to the old one in a few months.

For example, the costs column for running three mornings each week might include: getting less sleep on those days, missing out on morning coffee with your partner, or having to shower in the morning when you prefer to shower at night. The benefits column might include weight loss, more energy, and a better mood. Remember, be exhaustive. Getting clear on your own motivation is key to understanding whether you’re ready to move on a particular resolution—or not.


Get Visual


Spend some time visualizing what it would look like if you stuck to your resolution. For example, if you exercised for 10 minutes, three mornings a week:

what would your mornings then look like? What would change?

Go through your visualization step by step. How do you wake up? Where do you get dressed for your run? What is your destination? Do you use a playlist? Do you shower when you return? Being clear on what your resolution will look like in action will help you identify what obstacles might come up along the way.


Identify Obstacles


The next step would be to identify which obstacles might get in the way of establishing your new habit. Write these down—and again—be exhaustive. When you went through your visualization, what came up? Do you own running shoes? Is there a chance that your child will need to eat breakfast before you leave? Do you have a local park or area that feels like a good place to jog? Do you need a new pair of headphones?

After you’ve gotten specific about your obstacles, it’s time to come up with some solutions. Buy those running shoes, make sure you have time to get your child breakfast, or that the cereal and milk are accessible so that they can do it themselves. Once you’ve come up with solutions to each obstacle, you’ll be ready to get started.

By starting small, getting clear about your motivation and what obstacles you might face as you implement your resolutions, you’ll be on the right track for success.

Make sure that you pat yourself on the back and give yourself credit when you do succeed.

Making change isn’t easy, but small shifts can make a big difference in your trajectory over time—as long as you stick with them.


 If you are struggling with setting and sticking to your goals, we can help! Reach out today to learn more about how CBT can help you. Contact us at [email protected] or 646-650-2026

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