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New Year's Resolutions? 6 Steps to Get Them to Actually Stick

Emily Lamia profile image

Emily Lamia

Colorful lights.

Exercise more. Eat better. Find a new job.

These are the most common New Year’s resolutions I hear every year. You, or someone you know has probably had these exact same ones. And my guess is that just a few months after you make them, they’re not going so well.

But if you’re reading this you’re probably like me - thinking about your goals and wanting to be thoughtful and diligent about actually making your resolutions stick.

I’m certainly no pro at this myself, but I’ve spent some time really thinking over the last few weeks about what would make me more likely to follow through on my resolution. Here’s what I came up with:

1Limit it to one or two goals.

When I talk to people about the goals they have, they somehow always list three. I think that’s because we naturally tend towards clumping things into groups of three.

But frankly, more than two goals or resolutions is just silly!

You have to really prioritize your goals and the time that it takes to achieve them. Prioritizing one is possible. Two might be hard, but depending on what they are, it might be doable. But more than two!? That’s just crazy talk. By limiting yourself to one or two improvements for the year, you avoid overtaxing yourself, allow yourself to hone and focus, and increase your chances of success.

2Make them SMART.

You are most likely already familiar with SMART goals. Specific. Measurable. Action-related. Realistic. Timeline-tied. Ignoring these characteristics is the big reason I think that most people don’t keep their resolutions.

“Eat healthy” is not a SMART goal. First, it’s not specific. What kinds of food are you eating or not eating? It’s also not measurable. How much of what kinds of food?

It’s not action-specific: what specific actions do you need to take to “eat healthy”? It might not be realistic – but hey, since you haven’t properly defined it, then how do you know if it’s realistic to eat salads six times a week? You see where I’m going with this…

If you want it to be achievable, it needs to be SMART.

3Action Plan It!

Let’s say your goal is to find a new job.

What needs to happen in order for you do to that? What specific steps do you need to take, and by when to get a new job? This is the step where you take the actions from your SMART goals and plan them out.

You’ll probably have lots of things you need to do in order to find a new job, so get cracking on an action plan that outlines what it’s actually going to take for you to follow through.

Planning on a job search? Check out this handy calendar that has some of the most important pieces to getting your search up and running!

4Schedule it!

Great, now you have an action plan for finding a new job. Maybe it reads something like this:

Update resume, check in with references, buy a new interview outfit, practice elevator pitch, apply for one job a week, grab coffee with former coworkers.


But how do you actually make sure it happens? Schedule it – and by that I mean actually sit down and deliberately mark the time in your Google calendar, or your new, fancy planner.

If you block the time on your schedule for these actions, you’re more likely to actually do it than if you just say you’re going to do it, ‘sometime next week.’

5Remind Yourself of the “Why”

Part of the reason people tend not to complete their New Year’s resolutions is because they don’t feel compelled to keep chugging along towards them.

And sometimes the most compelling reason comes from imagining the alternative.

For example, ask yourself, “what happens if I don’t find a new job in the new year?”

Well, if you are miserable right now in your current job, or just bored, you run the risk of being even unhappier in six months.

What if you wrote yourself a letter telling 3-months-from-now-you what the consequences are of not achieving your goal? That might whip you into shape and motivate you to get through a networking happy hour even though you’re tired.

If you wrote that letter, it would be there for you to read every week as a reminder why you’re spending your Sunday mornings on your job search. It might just give you an extra boost of motivation to get your butt out of bed and make it happen.

6Get an accountability buddy – or two or three!

When we make New Year’s resolutions to ourselves, we’re the only ones who hold ourselves accountable for them and it’s so easy to fall off that wagon because no one else knows that we did.

BUT… if you find two or three friends who also really want to power through and achieve their goals, you all can be there for each other and push each other to keep going even when you’re feeling unmotivated or tired.

Frankly, I think finding more than one buddy is even better – enlist a group of people with different interests, goals, and motivators. This reduces the chance that everyone will be feeling unmotivated at the same time, and helps ensure there’s always someone in your accountability group who can drive the rest to keep working towards their goals. 

I’ve got one big New Year’s resolution for myself that I’m going to use all these steps to commit to.

And luckily for me, my day job revolves around helping people achieve their career goals, so I’m co-hosting what I think will be a great program next year, Pivot Yourself. We’ll be 16 people strong and deep, meeting in-person over quarterly retreats, with accountability buddies, and community support to help all of us achieve and follow through on our New Year’s resolutions.

Want in? Read more here.

Here’s to a pivotal year!

Emily Lamia profile image

Emily Lamia

Emily Lamia is the Founder of Pivot Journeys, which offers career coaching, group programs, and organizational consulting to teams that want to build strengths-based cultures that increase engagement, collaboration, and productivity.

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