New Year’s Resolutions – 7 Tips to Get Them Right!

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.
Joey Adams

New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. But are we missing out on a trick? Could it be that it’s not the idea of resolutions that doesn’t work, but maybe the way we’re setting them needs a tweak?

When trying to change there are small things we can do to increase our chance of success. Here are some that my clients and I have found useful. I hope they help you create a remarkable year in 2013.

1.    Get picky.

I used to make long lists of things I would start in the New Year. Come January 2nd I would struggle to remember what these were, let alone get them done.

Having too much to focus on is distracting. Besides, when our will power starts to wobble the sheer length of our list can make us give up.

Consider picking 1 single resolution this year.

When I tried this I felt like I was aiming low. My resolution was to start  running for 25 minutes, 3 times a week within 3 months. This is the one resolution I’ve ever kept. (Besides, we can always set another resolution 3 months down the line)

What change will have the most impact on your life?

2.    It’s all in the name.

I remember a client having a real aversion to the word ‘goal’. She said it made her quest seem boring, difficult and unobtainable.

This got me thinking about the meaning we attach to words and now I encourage my clients to come up with their own word to define what they want to achieve.

Some use project others use adventure or quest. My all time favorite is ‘promise’. We’ve been brought up to keep our promises and so, at a sub-conscious level, renaming our resolution as a promise can increase our chances of sticking to it.

Try it out, see how it feels for you.

3.    Make it clear.

Our minds are fussy types. They need clarity and specifics to get motivated.

The eagle eyed may have noticed that earlier I didn’t just talk about running, I talked about running for 25 minutes, 3 times a week within 3 months.

For the more fluid and spontaneous among us this might seem a little pedantic but it’s absolutely crucial in getting us motivated to take action.

To get clear ask yourself:

What have you promised yourself?

By when do you want to achieve it?

How will you and others know that you’ve achieved it?

4.    Find the reason why.

Why have you chosen this promise? How will it change your life? How will it affect those around you?

Even with the best-laid plans unless we see the point of doing something we’ll never stick to it.

If you want to keep going even when your promise is hard to stick to, find the reason why. Write it down or create a picture. Do anything that will remind you of this reason because when you feel like giving up this is what will help you push on.

5.    Double your chances of success.

One proven method for getting us to take action is to get someone else involved. They can either join you or hold you accountable for the actions you plan on taking.

For example psychologists have found that people who enrolled a buddy when trying to lose weight were more likely to shift the pounds and stick to their new diet.

In the same way, sharing your project with someone can help give you that extra push when you need it. The key thing to keep in mind is to choose someone who will support you, encourage you and show that they believe in you.

Who is trying to achieve something similar?

Who wants to see you succeed?

6.    Examine your thinking.

Here’s a slightly peculiar fact about me. Up until this year I thought that people who exercised were boring. I equated fitness with discipline, discipline with sticking to the rules and that with boring. I was almost proud of the fact that I was unfit because in my twisted thinking that meant that I was not boring and therefore fun. (I know)

The problem was that I had no idea that all this madness was going on in my head until I stopped to explore my thoughts about exercising. Once I discovered the crazy thinking I worked on proving to my mind that fit did not mean boring. This small change made it a LOT easier to get out of the house and go for a run.

Take some time and explore your thoughts around your promise. What thinking is holding you back? Where’s the evidence for it? What examples can you find to disprove that thinking? Find more about this here.

7.    Reward and Celebrate.

When these tips help you stick to your promise, take the time to give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate the fact that you’ve pushed through. Treat yourself with a reward.

Not only will it feel great but it will get your mind to focus on the fact that you’ve got will power, you DO get things done. And when that becomes part of your identity, well dear reader, a whole new world of possibilities opens up right at your feet.

This year I promise to meditate daily for 15 minutes. What’s your promise?


Karen is a psychologist and coach. In the past 15 years she’s left her tiny home country (Malta) (it’s in the Mediterranean) to study for a Master’s degree in London, worked as a psychologist for the BBC and consulted for many of the FTSE 100 companies. She’s traveled the world for 18 months, escaped the corporate world and is about to go spend winter in sunny Asia. She founded to help inspire others to follow their dreams because it was by following hers that she created a life she loves.

37 Responses to New Year’s Resolutions – 7 Tips to Get Them Right!

  1. wow very inspiring, I had not made a New Year’s resolution this year, because I never keep them anyway, but I have decided to choose just one this year and promise myself to keep it

  2. Rosa Robins says:

    Love reading your blogs Karen – great advise – always so positive and encouraging! Great way to start 2013 – Happy New Year :)

  3. says:

    Thanks Miriam! I’m so happy to hear you’ve been inspired to set a New Year Resolution! What have you decided to change or start?

  4. Karen@the1bigthing says:

    Thank you Rosa you’re very kind! Have you set a New year’s resolution?
    Happy New Year to you too. I hope it’s full of health happiness and love x

  5. Danh603 says:

    Can’t wait to put some of this into action, THANK YOU for always making it clear and easy to follow as well as challenging to stretch myself .

  6. Karen says:

    You’re VERY welcome Dan. Glad to hear you find the tips stretching and easy to follow. What resolution did you set?

  7. Daryl A. says:

    Excellent advice, makes a lot of sense and I can’t wait to put some of this into action.
    Thanks Karen

  8. Karen says:

    Thanks Daryl! Hope you achieve some great results.

  9. Jones 2008 says:

    Love the idea of finding the reason why. It makes an already appealing idea, suddenly a total no brainer!! Happy New Year!!

  10. Karen&the1bigthing says:

    Absolutely! Very insightful x

  11. Joe says:

    Great tips. I’ve just asked a friend to join my for my daily planned walk thanks to this post Thank

  12. says:

    Wow Joe! That was quick. Impressed. First step is always the hardest so glad to hear this post inspired you to get it done!

  13. Paul says:

    Wow! What inspiring words! I have already signed up to my local gym and booked evening art classes. 2 things I have wanted to do for ages and never got round to it! Thank you!

  14. Kenneth bonnici says:

    Excellent tips and excellently written. 

  15. says:

    That’s excellent news Paul. Art classes sound like fun!!

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  17. says:

    Thanks Kenneth. Glad you liked it :)

  18. Hi Karen, congrats on sticking to your resolution to run. I recently wrote about the one resolution I ever kept . . . it was not something I’m proud of. But it taught me a lesson.

    We don’t need New Year’s resolutions to change. I think so many people fail at their resolutions because it’s just viewed more as a holiday tradition than a commitment to real lasting change.

    However, your points apply to all attempts at growth, not just New Year’s resolutions. Good advice.


    p.s. I think I actually became a more interesting person when I started lifting. Thanks for that honest insight into your “crazy thinking.”

  19. Laura says:

    You are so right… I have a massive list of resolutions for this year and 6th day into the year – I am already not sticking to most of them :(
    1. I am going to stick to one – get to bed early.
    2. Actually – I am promising myself to get to bed early.
    3. In fact, I am promising  that I will hit the bed by 11pm and lights of by midnight every school night and one hour later on weekends (of course, with the exception of major parties).
    4. I chose it because it will mean that I get up early and therefore can get more done in the morning – e.g. spend time meditating or working on business strategy or… (in fact for now it could be that I just have fun – like read book), it will also mean that I always get enough sleep and therefore am more focused, have more energy, am more productive and look better :)
    5. Who can help me? – that’s tricky – my husband is just as bad as me and we are not very good at holding each other accountable…
    6. I have examined my sleep issues hundreds of times – first, initially its always hard to fall asleep early as body is not used to (a bit like for addict to come of smthg) – so I get frustrated laying in bed and dismiss it as waste of time… also, my mind thinks that 11pm is soooo early to go to bed – that’s for kids (as you can see, as a kid I used to go to bed quite late as well), but more importantly – I feel that I can still do this and that… or chill – sleeping is so wasteful… I hate that we have to sleep – such a waste of time. And then there are nightmares.
    Of course, on logical level, I know my thinking is wrong, if I go to sleep early – I will get more done and have more time – just next day.

    Thanks, Karen!

  20. Dylan says:

    So true, my resolutions always ended up somewhere between too hard and forgot. This year I’ll follow your tips and take the plunge, it’s all about helping and volunteering this year! Happy New Year

  21. Great post, and I am so happy I found your site!  Although I am not too into the idea of New Year’s resolution, I am still inspired to think about ways to implement change after reading your post.  Thanks!

  22. Paula Abdilla says:

    Love your blogs..Always fun and straight to the point!!!… Things seem much simpler, seen through your eyes!! :))

  23. eileen says:

    Great advice Karen i will put some in to action very soon .

  24. Love this, however, I’d like to expand on point four. When finding reasons why you must have something to move toward and something to move away from.

    Make your current situation as painful as possible, don’t use softeners such as ‘it’s not really THAT bad’, yes it is or you wouldn’t want to change.

    Once you’ve done this make your goal as attractive as possible, imagine all of the things you’ll have when you get there.

  25. Mandycummins says:

    I love no.7! It’s a great idea to reward your achievements…. It provides an added incentive to stick to your resolutions!!

  26. Val Mallia says:

    Loved this blog! – I was always very adverse to New Year’s Resolutions, – I always found them pathetic…. but you kind of shone a very different light to them ….. I might even set one for myself this year!!

  27. Val Mallia says:

    I loved this blog!! – I was always very adverse to New Year’s Resolutions!! – like you and your ex-outlook on exercise, I found them pathetic! – you did however shine a very different light on our start-of-year personal promises – I might even go ahead and set one for myself this year!!!

  28. Zachary Ames says:

    Love it!  The power of semantics always amazes me.  The simple shift to a promise completely changes my perspective.  Think I will choose Adventure!

    Some more great science about resolutions…

  29. Great post. You mentioned in nr. 2 that it is all in the name. I totally agree. When we talk about goals it may sound a bit boring. The same can happen when we talk about resolutions. I’ve read some places people call resolutions – revolutions. And there was a very good article that stated the word ”resolution” comes from the word ”resolve” which means to solve, AGAIN :). We get stuck into a pattern of resolving old problems. Why not change word to EVOLUTION? Doing new things, get a new look, a new anything. Have a great year 2013 everyone. And once again – thank you for your article 😉

  30. Nickie Smith says:

    to have more fun :}

  31. Kim Abdilla says:

    What an amazing blog! 😀

  32. Mariapantas1 says:

    Great work Karen…very inspiring :) xxxx

  33. Graziella Vella says:

    Totally agree with using the word ‘Promise’ rather than goal.  Excellent piece Karen!

  34. Shripad says:

    Renaming goals as quest, adventure or promise…. Just Excellent..!! :-)

  35. Traci Scerri says:

    Thanks Karen! another great inspirational read :) happy new year to you x

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