Are you making New Year resolutions that will work?

new year 2013We’re in the last few hours of 2012. A new year is about to begin! Traditionally (at least in our Western cultures) this has become a time to reflect on the year that has been, and for making those New Years’ resolutions. Set some goals for the year to come.

As I (Judith) sit here (in a quiet corner of a favourite cafe with a cup of tea) doing some people watching, some reading, and some writing, I began to do some reflecting on new year and what happens around this time.

January 1 equals a fresh new start for many. The new year is a clean slate where we can start over in some areas of our lives. We write our goals on that bank slate. I find it interesting (but not surprising) that highest on the list of new year resolutions are major life changes like: lose weight, exercise more, eat better, get healthy, give up …….. (insert a bad habit here).  Really, how many people do you know who have decided to `go on a diet’ on 1st January and have quit by the end of the month, or even the week? Probably too many to count.

But why? Why do people fail at their New Year resolutions so consistently?

It could be that these things are `goals’ in name only. They’re great ideals, but the person really has no intention of changing anything. We’ve all heard the saying, `Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.’  In this case they’re not goals, just dreams or good ideas. Goals require some planning, some strategies, and lots of work on our part to make them happen.

It could be that the goals are not expressed in a way that helps us achieve them. One of the things that I regularly teach (in relation to training and assessment) applies here. One of the most helpful principles is that of the S.M.A.R.T. goal. That stands for:SMART goals

  • Specific – what exactly is it you want to do – answer the who, what, where, why type questions
  • Measurable – how will you know you have reached your goal – this is about the how much type question
  • Active –  it should describe a result and include actions that will be taken
  • Realistic – make sure it’s not too easy – it should be challenging – it might seem huge at first, but as you break it down it will become realistic
  • Timed  – there is a time set – by when? – it includes deadlines, dates, frequency

Remember with all of this that when expressing our new year resolutions we are often talking about major life changes. And these take time, and effort. Thus it’s important that we remember to make them realistic (the R in SMART). Lots of people have great, grand ideals about what they want to do in the new year. It’s not bad to have BIG goals so long as we are ready to make a plan, break them down into smaller steps that lead us to the goal – which means developing a strategy for success. But it isn’t helpful to set outrageously unrealistic goals.

An example of an unrealistic goal would be `I want to lose 15 kg (33 lbs) by the end of January (four weeks). That’s 3.75 kgs (8 1/4 lbs) per week!! That would usually take some very drastic measures that would not contribute to good health. Is it realistic? Not really. Setting a gaol like this would be setting yourself up to fail, with all the resulting disappointment, and all the bad feelings that can lead to.

So when making your new year resolutions, setting your goals for the new year, ask yourself how much time and effort will your goals require. How much are you willing to give?

If you’ve expressed a goal in a general way such as, `I want to eat better’, it would be a helpful exercise for you to re-write it as a SMART goal. It might take you a few goes at it, but it’s worth the effort. It will give you something very clear to aim for as you begin the year. Have a go. If you need some coaching with this, please let’s know. (Leave a message or question in the comments or email us. We’ll get back to you, I promise.)

It’s evening here, so perhaps it’s time to go out and do some celebrating. But don’t forget to write yourself some very SMART new years resolutions tomorrow.

Happy New Year!!!


  1. […] our New Year’s Eve post we talked a bit about making resolutions and writing them in such as way that they become goals […]

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