With the new year right around the corner, now’s the perfect time to reflect on the past 365 days and decide what you want to achieve over the coming twelve months. Let’s turn those dreams into actuality by breaking down how to set powerful and achievable resolutions for 2023.

Why This Is Important

For a few weeks either side of January 1st, everybody is talking about their goals and resolutions for the new year. Whilst most set out with honest intentions, determination and a willingness to change, few end up sticking to their plans beyond the first month of the year. But why is this?

Research shows that a majority of people abandon their resolutions and life changing affirmations over time, with few managing to maintain their goals beyond the first year, let alone the first few weeks of the year. There are several factors at play here that can actively work against your outcomes if not addressed early in the piece. Failing to account for all these will result in half-baked ideas and unmeasurable plans than can lead to feelings of guilt, failure and depression, despite your best intentions. Rather, let’s focus on how you can set yourself up for success and attain your desired outcomes through smarter planning of new year’s resolutions. But before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a step back and define just what is a resolution and importantly, how a resolution differs from a goal.

What’s The Difference Between Resolutions And Goals

Resolutions are typically vague statements more akin to an intention. Goals are more specific.

Though they may appear interchangeable, there are several differences between resolutions and goals that are worth exploring. Firstly, resolutions tend to be even more time-specific than goals, at least in terms of when they are set and when they are scheduled to commence. On the flip side, goals are usually more specific when it comes to duration and end dates. In fact, specificity tends to be the biggest difference between the two. Resolutions are typically vague statements more akin to an intention, lack deadlines and are overall less refined than goals.

Let’s use an example to clarify. Think of a typical new year’s resolution; I want to go to be healthier this year. Now let’s compare that to a goal; I want to improve my resting heart rate this year, from 65 to 55bpm, by December 31st. The resolution lacks any defined end date, any measurable metrics and no clear path to achieving it. Does eating an apple count toward achieving this goal, or does it check it as complete just with that single action? What about going for a walk, or a run, spending 5 minutes in the gym or smoking one less cigarette? Technically all improve your health by some marginal degree. Compare this to the resolution, which features both criteria and a deadline, creating a sense of urgency.

Importantly, the example goal also allows you to create a support structure in order to meet the listed criteria. These are actions that you can take that advanced you toward reaching your outcome. For instance, dropping 10 beats per minute when you are at rest is a sign that your overall cardiovascular health has improved. In order to do this, one must invest time working on their cardio through, which itself can be achieved in a number of ways; running, walking, hiking, swimming, sports, etc. So along with the goal, there needs to some degree of planning given to how you will achieve that goal with supportive actions. Think of what you want to achieve, then work backwards to define what you need to do and how often you would realistically be able to perform said actions. Invest the time, put in the effort on a regular basis and you’ll soon be on your way to achieving your goals.

Another element to consider is making your journey fun. Sure, not everything is going to be a walk in the park, but you are much more likely to achieve your goals if you enjoy what you are doing on some level. This will contribute massively toward your motivation and help you stick to your resolutions once the novelty of change wears off. Consider the heartrate example. There would be no point choosing an activity that you loathe in order to try and achieve that goal, as you’d soon tire of it and be at risk of abandoning the entire goal. Instead, picking some form of activity that brings you joy, or ways you can have fun doing it, are essential to keeping you motivated and on track. Don’t like running on a treadmill? Go outside and enjoy the beauty of nature, see how far you can run and how much you can view. Same goes for yoga, which can be practiced virtually anywhere there is a flat surface.

It takes more than just enjoying the process to ensure you hit your targets. Consistency is key.

It takes more than just enjoying the process to ensure you hit your targets. Consistency is key. But if you are both the trainer and the trainee, how can you guarantee this relationship, and thus your dedication, won’t be compromised? Keeping oneself accountable is vital and the best way to make sure this happens is to invite a third party into the mix, by telling someone else about your plans. Ideally, this would be someone who is supportive of your goals, that you know and trust. But you could also take the plunge and announce to a group of people as to what your ambitions are. Your best bet is to find a group of people who share the same goals, as that way you will have access to a network that can connect you will additional resources and help keep you motivated. Announcing your goals to others is a brave act and one that will pay off big time. Being publicly accountable suddenly adds a degree of responsibility into the mix, as people are now counting on you to achieve your goals… or at least that is how it will feel. Regardless, use that a further source of motivation to fuel your efforts.

And when the time comes, don’t forget to reward yourself! Exercise some delayed gratification and set a reward that you can enjoy once you have achieved your goal. Often, reaching your desired outcome is reward enough, but you could always up the ante with a prize that compliments your achievements. For example, if you plan on making health-related goals that will change your physical shape, buying some better-fitting clothes could be a reasonable reward that could also help keep you motivated beyond the end of the year (and is quite sensible too!).

Setting Achievable Resolutions

So, let’s put all this together and construct an achievable resolution. To recap, it needs to be detailed and specific, clear and measurable, have an end date, a supportive structure and is ideally one that can be communicated publicly for further accountability. Perhaps you’d like to quit smoking in the new year. Using this classic example, let’s apply all the attributes we’ve learned that will evolve this simple statement into a supercharged resolution.

Be honest with yourself.

First, consider how much you currently smoke. Be honest with yourself and assess the damage (the more honest you are at this point, the easier the journey and better the outcome will be). Next, let’s get specific about going smoke free, and turn that statement into ‘I will smoke zero cigarettes by December 31st’. Next, we will calculate how much you’ll need to ween off cigarettes each month, and any additional resources you’ll need to achieve this, like nicotine patches, gums, etc. Workout how you will budget for this and where you can obtain these resources from. Develop a plan (perhaps in consultation with a doctor or online smoke-free support group), working backwards from the end of the year to the start of January. Research any groups you can join online that share this ambition or reach out to friends, family or co-workers who are also looking to make the same change and announce your goal. Track your progress in some way, be it a journal or spreadsheet, and share it with your audience on a regular basis. This will help you stay on track and may also motivate others who are on their own journey of change. Our goal statement could now incorporate all of the above points to be something like, ‘I will cut down my smoking to a weekly half pack by mid-year, less than a cigarette a day by September and be cigarette free by December 31st’.

So now we have a goal, some measurable metrics, supportive actions, publicly accountability, resources and people invested in our success. If you are up for it, plan a reward that you can enjoy once you reach your end state. Put aside the money and block out the time so that this reward becomes even more tangible – it will go a long way to making the finish line seem that more real.

If You Want It, It’s Worth It

At this point, you might be thinking that this is a lot of work. Yes, to a degree this process involves more effort than blurting out a well-intentioned statement on New Year’s Eve. The time you invest now will pay off big dividends at the end of the year. The more refined your resolutions are, the more likely you will achieve them.

Now it’s time to focus on what you want to achieve. Set aside an hour or two for honest reflection, note down your ambitions, and plan for your future success.

May all your dreams and goals be realised and have a happy, healthy and wonderful 2023. ■

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