How to succeed with New Year's resolutions

So, it’s once again that time of year when we might be thinking about New Year’s resolutions. And it can feel like the best, and the worst, time to do this! A great time, because New Year feels like the start of a new chapter, and often throughout December, we perhaps feel we overdo it when it comes to what we’re eating, the constant socialising, how much we’re drinking, whether we’re exercising, and how much we’re spending.


These thoughts can often generate some of the 'classic' New Year’s resolutions, such as losing weight, getting fit, or doing Dry January. But it can also be a hard time to make big changes - it’s cold and dark, we may be feeling more tired than usual, and there can be a feeling of emptiness after the festivities of December.

We also know that resolutions can be hard to stick to. Think back - when have you made a resolution and truly stuck to it? For some people it may come easily, but for many of us, not so much! So how can sticking to a resolution be easier?

It can be helpful to think in terms of whether your resolution is S.M.A.R.T. That is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

So for example, if we have a resolution or goal such as, 'I want to get fit', there is a high risk of failure. The reason being that it’s not very specific, what does 'fit' mean for us? How would you know if you were successful? How would you motivate yourself when things feel tough? Is this the best goal for you right now?

To reframe the 'get fit' resolution with regards to being SMART, it might look something like this:

  • Specific: I will go to the gym.
  • Measurable: I will go twice a week.
  • Achievable: I’m unlikely to get to the gym more than twice a week because I have a lot of other commitments, but this is enough to make a significant difference in my fitness levels.
  • Relevant: January is a good time for me to do this because, in the warmer months, I tend to be distracted more by socialising.
  • Time-bound: I will do this for four weeks and then review how it’s going, and whether I’d like to make changes to this new routine.

By reworking the resolution of 'get fit' this way, it now becomes much easier to achieve. And how are New Year’s resolutions related to counselling, you might ask?

Several ways!

Counsellors are very good at helping you define your goals, and figure out how to break down large goals into more manageable, smaller goals. A routine of seeing a counsellor on a regular basis can be helpful if you find accountability aids your ability to stick to goals. And, if you come across any blocks in your progress, your counsellor can help you identify what these are. 

Some common blocks to progress include:

  • Not knowing what motivates you, and therefore, not taking this into account when you’re trying to achieve something.
  • Having beliefs about yourself or others that hold you back.
  • The goal isn’t right for you. Maybe it’s not something you genuinely want for yourself, but pressure or expectation from other people in your life.
  • You’re being derailed by others who may not want you to make the change you’re aiming for.

A counsellor can support you to work through these issues if they come up, and in doing so, you may also learn more about yourself, which can help you set goals in the future. So, what are you wanting to achieve in the next year?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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