How to Succeed in Your New Year’s Resolution

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: I have repeatedly tried New Year’s resolutions, but if I were to measure my life by succeeding in keeping them, I would be an abysmal failure. Any suggestions?

I suppose everyone has made New Year’s resolutions, and everyone has experienced the failure of not following through with many of them. However, just as there are those who have failed, there are those who have succeeded. And it is likely that their successes are directly related to a few simple steps. For example, some reading this will resolve to lose weight, start an exercise program, or reduce indebtedness in the upcoming year.

The problem with most resolutions is that they are long-term and ambiguous. To see success, you will have to define your goals specifically. For example, if you want to lose weight, you will be more successful if you commit to losing one pound per week, or four pounds a month, rather than resolving to lose forty points in three months. Four pounds a month amounts to an amazing forty-eight pounds in a year if you stick with it. Also, you might commit to weighing yourself each morning before you begin your day. That allows you to address any weight gain by slightly adjusting your caloric intake. If you want to become more physically fit, plan your program before you begin, starting slowly and increasing at a reasonable rate. Becoming debt free may require a number of years, but if you set reasonable steps for one year, you will more likely reach your overall goal.

G. E. Miller, writing in wisebread.com, stated, “Succeeding in your resolutions really requires you to live in the moment, be passionate, and challenge yourself. It’s not really about the resolution at all. It’s all in the ensuing actions that you take to fight towards that resolution. So how do you do it?” He went on to suggest three steps that might just work:

Step 1: Identify what you will be really passionate about this year. What do you really, really want to achieve? Keep the list simple and short — one to two items. Too many resolutions will mean that you don’t succeed in any.

Step 2: Ask yourself one question when making a decision that will impact you achieving your goal. Print out this question. Stick it to your computer monitor, make it your wallpaper on your smartphone, and laminate it into a card and stick it in your wallet. The question is: “Am I giving it everything that I’ve got?”

Step 3: If your answer to that question is “yes,” great! You have taken one small step towards succeeding in your resolution. 

In his opinion, there are reasons for the above-described approach working. Though this is not an empirically based piece of research, his steps seem intuitive, and are consistent with other research-based behavioral approaches.

The approach changes your habits. Changing your habits is the only way to succeed at meeting and maintaining your goals into the future.

It challenges you and keeps you engaged.

It is simple.

It can be applied universally—whether losing weight; reducing debt; performing at work; being a better husband, wife, parent, or etc.

It keeps you focused in the now—step by step, not on the goal, which will sometimes seem out of reach.

So as you head into the New Year, there are probably some areas of your behavior that you would like to change or improve. Go ahead. Identify what you can be really passionate about this year. Ask yourself “Am I willing to give it everything that I’ve got?” If your answer to that question is “yes,” you have taken one small step and you are on your way towards succeeding in your resolution. Two months from now write the Delta Discovery and tell us how you are doing.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]