How to make new year’s resolutions you won’t break

  | 8 min read

New year’s resolutions are meant to be broken

It’s almost 2017, and many of us are in the process of deciding what our new year’s resolutions will be. However, how many of us actually fulfilled the new year’s resolutions we made for 2016? Most of us have broken all of the goals we set for ourselves last year. In fact, new year’s resolutions have almost become a joke as very few people actually keep them.

So, what exactly are new year’s resolutions?

Well, new year’s resolutions are promises and goals of self-improvement that we make to ourselves at the end of each year to be undertaken in the coming year. The most popular new year’s resolutions include:

·   Eat healthier and/or diet

·   Exercise and lose weight

·   Stop drinking alcohol

·   Spend less and save more money

·   Less partying, clubbing, and/or bar hopping

·   Quit smoking

·   Start something new (business, online course, activity)

·   Spend more time with family

As you can see, most of the new year’s resolutions people make involve their health, relationships, career, and money. However, while these goals would bring many positive improvements to a person’s life, achieving even one of them is incredibly hard – ask anyone who has tried.

So does that mean that we should give up on new year’s resolutions?

Well, not exactly. Instead of completely doing away with new year’s resolutions we should actually spend more time planning them. You see, the whole idea of starting afresh each year and setting positive goals that will improve the quality of your life is actually beneficial. However, what makes it ‘unachievable’ is the process we use to set our goals.

Luckily, we know how you can set new year’s resolutions that you can actually keep.

1.     Set specific goals

The biggest mistake most of us make is setting new year’s resolutions that are too broad. For instance, “In 2017 I will eat healthy”. Well, what exactly does this mean? For many, it means that they’ll try and live on a diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins (e.g baked chicken), and unprocessed carbohydrates ( e.g brown rice). However, it’s safe to say that if you attempt to stop eating chipsi kuku* every afternoon and start eating a lettuce and tomato salad, that you will eventually get bored and start eating junk food again.

So, if you do want to eat healthier, start off by deciding what exactly you want to get out of the experience. For instance, is your goal to lose weight? Or regulate a disease (diabetes, high cholesterol) you may have? Or just improve the way you feel (less tired, more energetic)?

After you’ve figured this out then, decide on the first step you would need to take to meet your goal. For most people, that would involve learning about nutrition. As contrary to what many people believe, eating healthy doesn’t mean that you can only eat vegetables and fruits. It’s about having a balanced diet and knowing how you prepare your meals.

As a result, a more specific and achievable goal is, “learn 7 healthy meal recipes that I can cook at home each day”. This means that you learn how to prepare healthy meals for yourself, which is the most important step to living a healthier lifestyle.

2.     Break down the task and have timeframes

In addition to setting a more specific goal, it’s also to your advantage to break down the resolution into smaller tasks. This will not only give you clarity on the steps that you need to take to achieve your goal, but it will also allow you to feel accomplished throughout the year. You see, one of the reasons we fail to fulfill our goals is because we have to wait a long time to feel any sense of satisfaction.

Simply put, your goal needs to have some milestones.

For instance, let’s say you decide to quit drinking for the year. First, a better goal would be, “Reduce my alcohol intake by 70%, so normally I have 5 drinks a night, by the end of the year I should be having 1.5”. Now you can break down the task as follows:

–       From January to end of March I should have 1 less drink, so 4 in total

–       From April to end of June I should have 2 fewer drinks, so 3 in total

–       From July to end of September I should have 3 fewer drinks, so 2 in total

–       From October to December, I should have 3.5 – 4 fewer drinks, so 1 – 1.5 in total

And then the goal for the year after that would be to stop drinking altogether (if that’s what you actually want).

3.     Be honest with yourself

Before you even set a goal, you need to have an honest talk with yourself about what you think is possible for you to achieve. Indeed, we have the ability to achieve amazing things when we set our minds to it. But just because you watched a documentary about a girl who decided to sail around the world in a year and made it, doesn’t mean that you can or should do the same. Even if your goal isn’t as extravagant, we set ourselves up for failure every time we set goals that deep down inside we know we aren’t ready to achieve.

For instance, if your goal is to quit your job and start your own business. Before you make the commitment, you have to first ask yourself, ‘why right now?’ Do I have enough savings to invest in my business? Do I have the contacts I need? Is there any more learning I need to do before I venture out on my own?

The purpose of questioning yourself is not to discourage or stop you from accomplishing your dreams. Instead, it’s about making sure you are prepared and are making the right resolutions. So for instance, if you realise that you haven’t saved enough to invest in your business plan, then the goal for the year should be just that – “Save X amount by Y date for the purpose of investing in Z project”.

4.     Don’t tell other people

There’s a psychological study that shows that telling people about your goals actually reduces the chances of you fulfilling them because you subconsciously gain a sense of accomplishment from just talking about it. This can be observed in our work life whereby someone may spend hours complaining about a task they have to do, rather than just doing it. So, instead of letting people know about your new year’s resolutions, keep them to yourself. Unless they actively involve other people, for instance, if you need your housekeeper to start cooking healthier meals for you.

5.     Keep a journal

It’s common knowledge that many Tanzanians don’t like to write, so telling you to keep a journal may feel like it’s very own new year’s goal. However, journaling regularly about the progress and setbacks you are facing with achieving your new year’s resolutions will give you insight into the habits that are working and those that aren’t. What did you do that day that led you to eat a whole pizza by yourself? And what did you do the other day when you were able to resist your craving for zege* and make yourself some grilled chicken and boiled potatoes instead?

Keeping a journal will help you notice the patterns that lead to success and those that cause failure. Moreover, you will also be able to observe your developments as initially you may be writing about how difficult everything is, and then eventually you may notice that your feelings and comments are more positive.

We all have the power to change our lives

At the end of the day, the purpose of new year’s resolutions is to remind you that it’s never too late to make important changes in your life. So, hopefully, with these tips, you’ll start setting goals that eventually evolve into realities. Just remember, start small, and over time these seemingly insignificant changes will manifest into the life you always wanted to live, and the person you always knew you could be.

Chipsi kuku*: Chicken and chips

Zege*: An egg pancake stuffed with chips

Image credit:

Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.