New Year's resolutions can often generate two emotions: Hope and fear. We hope that we'll successfully change our lives for the better – while fearing that we won't.
Unfortunately, it seems the fear is justified.
If you're wondering how many New Year's resolutions fail, the answer is pretty scary. A study conducted by the University of Scranton found that just 8% of people achieve their New Year's resolutions, while a massive 80% fail to stick to their New Year's goals.
So, how can you ensure that you join the 8% of people who stick to their New Year's resolution? Keep reading to find out.
In this ultimate guide, you'll learn how to set New Year's resolutions. Then, we'll run through some tips on how to stick to New Year's resolutions. Finally, we'll finish up with 20 top New Year's resolution ideas to help you kickstart your transformation!
But first, let's lay the foundations for success.
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What is a New Year's Resolution?
New Year's resolutions are personal goals that we set at the start of each year. But why do we make New Year's resolutions? Well, for many, the new calendar year ushers in a sense of renewal and hope. It's a time to take stock of who we are and the way we live and resolve to improve ourselves.
What is the Most Common New Year's Resolution?
New Year's resolutions typically address the essential aspects of life, such as health, feelings of wellbeing, social connections, or finances.
In fact, according to a study by Ipsos for Urban Plates, the most popular New Year's resolutions are:
- Managing finances better
- Eat healthier
- Be more active
- Lose weight
- Improve mental wellbeing
- Improve social connections
How to Make New Year's Resolutions
When setting New Year's resolutions – or any personal, professional, or business goals – always set SMART goals. This acronym stands for:
- Specific: There should be no room for misinterpretation.
- Measurable: Plan how to track your results objectively.
- Achievable: Set realistic New Year's resolutions.
- Relevant: Ensure your New Year's goal aligns with who you want to be.
- Time-bound: Set deadlines for each part of the process needed to achieve your goal.
For example, instead of saying, "I want to be fitter," set a SMART goal like:
This year, I will become a marathon runner (Specific). I will go running three times each week (Achievable), and I will use a fitness app to track my progress (Measurable). I'm going to run my city's half marathon in June (Time-bound). I'm committed to this New Year's goal because I want to feel fit, healthy, and strong (Relevant).
Also, if you're going to achieve your New Year's goal, you must believe it's possible. So, use words like "I will" instead of "I plan" or "I hope." As the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt said, "Believe you can, and you're halfway there."
Lastly, focus on quality, not quantity.
When the New Year rolls around, you may feel full of enthusiasm and want to make a bunch of New Year's goals.
If you try to get fit, eat healthier, earn more money, develop your relationships, and start meditating at the same time, you're likely setting yourself up for failure. As the Russian proverb goes, "If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one."
So, set no more than three New Year's resolutions. Or better yet, set just one – then, once you've mastered it, you can start another one later in the year.
How to Keep New Year's Resolutions
In short, here's how to stick to New Year's resolutions: Focus on the process, not the results.
We can control inputs – we can't control the results. For example, we can control how often we exercise and how much effort we put into each session, but we can't control how much weight we'll lose each week.
So, focus your attention and effort on what you have control over: The practice. If you do this, the results will take care of themselves.
However, if you focus all of your effort on the end goal, you may feel overwhelmed or like nothing is changing and give up.
"My results had very little to do with the goals I set and nearly everything to do with the systems I followed," James Clear writes in Atomic Habits. "Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems."
Additionally, commit to sticking to your New Year's resolution over the long-term.
Despite popular belief, habits don't typically form in 21 days. Research shows that it can take anywhere from two to eight months to develop a new habit. In fact, on average, it takes 66 days of daily practice to establish a new behavior.
Lastly, find support.
You're not alone in your quest for personal growth and improvement – there are plenty of other people out there struggling with the same New Year's resolution.
Connection and support can go a long way to helping us achieve our goals. So, join Facebook groups, engage in discussions on Reddit, and meet up with people in your local area.
20 Top New Year's Resolution Ideas
Now that you know how to set New Year's resolutions and how to stick to them, let's take a quick look at 20 of the best New Year's resolutions out there. So, if you're wondering, "what should my new year's resolution be?" choose one from this New Year's resolution list!
1. Increase Your Fitness
Improving fitness is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions out there – and it's easy to understand why. As the motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, "Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live."
2. Improve Your Diet
Similarly, the quality of our diet has a massive effect on the quality of our lives. So, if you want to improve your sleep, productivity, and feelings of wellbeing, consider setting healthy New Year's resolutions. You know what they say, "You are what you eat!"
3. Stop Procrastinating
If you want to create the life of your dreams but too often find yourself procrastinating, perhaps it's time to learn how to stop procrastinating for good. That way, you can spend your time and energy on what you truly care about.
4. Earn More Money
One of the most common New Year's resolutions is to improve our finances in some way. If you have dreams of traveling, buying a house, or starting a family, you may want to set a New Year's resolution to earn more money by chasing a promotion or taking a new job.
5. Start a Business
6. Get Out of Debt
Not only can debt hold you back from achieving your personal goals, it can also feel oppressive and stressful. So why not set a New Year's goal to tackle it head-on? Thankfully, there are tons of money blogs online to help.
7. Save an Emergency Fund
Likewise, living paycheck to paycheck can be stressful. Why not make a promise to yourself to set aside some money each month and increase your financial security? The personal finance expert Dave Ramsey said, "Saving must become a priority, not just a thought. Pay yourself first."
8. Start Meditating
If you want to improve your health and wellbeing, you may want to set a New Year's resolution to start meditating daily. Science shows that this simple exercise can provide many health benefits.
9. Improve Your Sleep
Are you always burning the candle at both ends? Sleep has a profound effect on the quality of our health – why not focus on improving yours this year? As the science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein said, "Happiness consists of getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more."
10. Watch Less TV
On average, Americans spend almost three hours a day watching TV – has Netflix ever asked you if you're still watching? This year, you could vow to divert some of your TV time to other things you care about.
11. Spend Less Time on Social Media
Perhaps you spend hours each day scrolling social media feeds and would like to cut down? This is a good New Year's resolution when you consider that science has proven social media harms our wellbeing and increases feelings of loneliness and depression.
12. Read More
The writer of Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin, once wrote, "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." Here's a list of 40 must-read books of all time to get you started!
13. Learn Something New
Have you ever wanted to learn a new language, play a musical instrument, or take up a new sport? Commit to learning something new with a unique New Year's resolution. As the writer Mark Twain once wrote, "Never let formal education get in the way of your learning."
14. Develop a Hobby
Is there something that you love to do that you wish you spent more time doing? Whether it's entrepreneurship or model airplanes, consider setting a New Year's goal to go deeper into your favorite hobby.
If there's a charitable cause dear to your heart, perhaps you'd like to dedicate more of your time to it. Plus, volunteering is a great way to make new friends and give back to your community.
16. Express Yourself More
Whether it's music, painting, or writing, we all need to find ways to express ourselves. For example, research shows that expressing your thoughts and feelings in a journal can provide many health benefits. Set a New Year's resolution to express yourself more this year.
17. Confront a Fear
The media mogul Oprah Winfrey said, "We can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are." Whether you fear failure, rejection, or heights, why not set a New Year's goal to overcome it?
18. Meet New People
The author and speaker, Simon Sinek, said, "Life is beautiful not because of the things we see or do. Life is beautiful because of the people we meet." He's got a point. So, why not set a New Year's goal to meet new people and make new friends?
19. Develop Your Relationships
Equally, our relationships with family and existing friends hugely affect the quality of our lives. Are there relationships you'd like to develop, explore, or repair? Why not resolve to improve them with a New Year's resolution?
COVID-19 may be here to stay, but travel may still be a dream of yours. Although traveling comes with risk, proper planning and preparation can help to ensure your trips go smoothly. Set a New Year's goal to make it happen this year.
Summary: New Year's Resolution Tips
New Year's resolutions are all about renewal, hope, and the development of our best selves.
Although the most common New Year's resolutions typically revolve around health, wellbeing, and finances, there's no rule against creating unique New Year's resolutions to suit you.
Remember, when setting New Year's resolutions, set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Also, don't spread yourself too thin – instead, focus on one or two New Year's goals that mean the most to you.
To stick to your New Year's goals, focus on the process needed to make them happen and let the results take care of themselves. Finally, seek out connections and support from others who have set the same New Year's resolution.
Do you have a New Year's resolution this year? Share it with us in the comments below!