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How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions

By Jane Young, CFP, EA

Throughout history people have been setting New Year’s resolutions.  The new year is a new beginning, the opportunity for a fresh start to change bad habits and establish new routines.  

Around 45% of Americans set New Year’s resolutions but the majority are not attained.  Most resolutions involve self-improvement including losing weight, eating better, making better financial decisions, saving more, improving career opportunities, and improving relationships.

Many resolutions fail because it is difficult to change behaviors that have been created over many years.  There is a tendency to focus on the end result rather than the incremental process of changing behavior.  Below are some steps to help you set and achieve your New Year’s resolutions.

  • Your resolution needs to be meaningful and aligned with your values.  Reflect on why you want to achieve the resolution.  Peel back the onion to examine why your resolution is significant.  What is your desired outcome and how will it change your life?  You need to really care about the resolution and be fully committed.


  • Set resolutions that are specific, concentrated, measurable, and achievable. A resolution to save more money is too broad.  Alternatively, set a specific goal to save $200 every month to build up your emergency fund.  


  • Create a detailed plan to achieve your resolutions.  If your goal is to increase your 401k contribution by 5%, create a budget and identify how you will change your spending habits to accommodate this change.  Identify the steps are you going to take and how you will stay on track.


  • Resolutions should be comprised of small manageable steps. Ambitious long-term goals are great, but they need to be broken down into smaller measurable pieces.   Do not attempt too much too quickly, you will become discouraged and give up.


  • Work on one or two resolutions at a time.  If you set too many resolutions it is difficult to focus and achieve your most significant goals.


  • Achievement of your resolutions requires persistence and resilience. Do not let small lapses throw you off track.  The path is not linear, do not become discouraged by minor setbacks.  Be gracious with yourself and treat a relapse as a learning opportunity.  As Vince Lombardi once said, “It isn’t whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up”.


  • A strong support system is needed to make major behavioral changes.  Share your resolutions with friends and family who will encourage and support you.


  • Monitor your progress and celebrate small wins at regular intervals to make adjustments and stay motivated.

It is good to set New Year’s resolutions even if you do not fully achieve them.  You have created the momentum to move in a positive direction toward the future.  A study by the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that people who set New Year’s resolutions are ten times more likely to actually change behavior than those who do not set yearly goals.