How To Set Successful New Year’s Resolutions

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guest post by susan macfarlane, registered dietitian nutritionist

I love setting New Year’s resolutions. The chance to start fresh, turn over a new leaf, and create habits that help me become the best version of myself leaves me feeling optimistic, hopeful, and inspired. And I’m not alone. New Year’s resolutions are set around the world with number one being (you guessed it!) to get healthy and lose weight. Yet, 92%1 of people will not meet their New Year’s resolutions.

So before jumping in headfirst, take a few minutes to consider what made your previous resolutions unsuccessful, and the strategy you might use this year to foolproof your goals.

Why New Year's Resolutions Fail

There are many reasons why people do not meet their New Year’s resolutions. Number one that I see is being too focused on the outcome, and not focused enough on the process. You want to lose weight. Wonderful! But what are you going to do to achieve this goal? How are you going to do it? When, where, and why are you going to do it? We can’t just will ourselves to lose weight and get healthy; we need a strategy that is equally focused and flexible.

The second most common reason why New Year’s resolutions fail is going too hard, too fast. If your current workout consists of walking to and from the parking lot each day, setting a goal of working out 6 days a week for 2 hours at a time is pretty unrealistic. Not only are you increasing your risk of injury (which is another reason why goals are abandoned), but you may struggle to achieve a work-life balance.

It’s also important to mention that your New Year’s resolutions should be, well, YOURS! If you are losing weight or getting fit because someone told you to, it’s unlikely that you will be motivated to pursue this goal for an entire year.

How To Achieve Your New Year's Resolutions

Less Is More

Although you may have more than a few things you’d like to change in your life, avoid creating a lengthy list of goals. Not only is such a list overwhelming, but it may increase negative feelings about yourself, causing you to give up before you even start. Instead, set NO MORE than 3 resolutions, choosing those that are most important to you.

Have A Strategy

Setting a New Year’s resolution is the first step. Next is creating an action plan that details how you will meet this goal.

For example, if your resolution is to lose 50 lbs in one year, your action plan might include the following actionable items:

  • Go for a 20-minute walk during my lunch break on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
  • Bring a lunch to work 4 days per week, limiting lunch-time restaurant meals to Friday
  • Eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking every day
  • Include a vegetable with both lunch and supper daily
  • Track my diet in Cronometer at least 4 days per week
  • Monitor my weight every 7 days (Friday morning)


The bullet points above list specific, measurable actions to take that can help you meet your resolution. It’s important to choose only the number of actions that you feel are manageable. Don’t add any additional actions until the ones you are working on become second nature.

Also, be sure that you are using SMART goal setting principles, by making your actions specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific.

Plan For Setbacks

Once you have set your resolution and created an action plan, think about all the things that could happen to derail your goal.

For example, how will your goals change if you get sick or injured or go on vacation? Will you press pause on your actions or better yet, modify them to your situation?

It’s also important to consider if there are any barriers that interfere with your ability to implement your action plan.

For example, maybe you don’t have enough time to make breakfast and lunch in the morning before work. To solve this problem, you may need to go to bed earlier and/or get your meals ready the night before.

Avoid Setting & Forgetting

The old adage of “out of sight, out of mind” is very fitting when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. Not only is it important to write out your resolutions and action plan, but to check in and view your goals on a weekly, if not daily, basis. However, we don’t just want to stick our goals on the fridge, where they will blend into the paper background. Your resolutions should be posted where they will stand out, such as your computer’s desktop background, your bathroom mirror, or on a doorframe. Better yet, find your resolutions and action plans a new home every month to keep your goals fresh in your mind.

Celebrate Your Success

Creating new habits and changing behaviour is not easy (if it was, there would be no such thing as New Year’s resolutions!). Take time to celebrate your success along the way by doing something meaningful and rewarding. Just be sure that whatever you do doesn’t undo the progress you’ve made.


  1. Statistic Brain. New Year’s Resolution Statistics. Jan 2017. Available from:

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