Positive New Year's Resolutions: A How-To Guide

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The start of a new year offers a clean slate — 12 months full of promise and potential. New Year's resolutions are an opportunity to make positive changes in your life that may even last a lifetime. The trouble is, resolutions often end in disappointment.

According to some estimates, up to 80 percent of New Year's resolutions don't stick. One reason: "People tend to be overzealous with their goals," says Aimee Richardson, a health coach at Henry Ford Health System. They vow to lose a significant amount of weight or exercise for an hour each day and when they begin to fall short, they give up.

A Positive Approach To New Year's Resolutions

New Year's resolutions can play a key role in helping you achieve your goals, especially if you put a positive spin on them. Here are eight strategies for designing resolutions that will excite you enough to carry through the year:

  1. Create a theme for the year: Choose one word or theme that embodies what you hope to focus on for the year. Examples include words like connect, inspire, balance, abundance, perseverance and resilience. Put sticky notes with the word on your computer, bathroom mirror, refrigerator — places where you’ll see it throughout the day. Then build resolutions that coincide with that theme word.
  2. Select resolutions that excite you: Whether you want to eat healthier, get more sleep or start exercising, choose strategies that bring positivity into your life. So instead of convincing yourself you need to hit the gym every day at 5 a.m. — especially if you hate exercising indoors — generate lots of ideas for how to get exercise by doing activities you enjoy. Run through a new-to-you park, take a Zumba class or try ice skating. "There are lots of ways to exercise, eat healthfully and get more sleep," Richardson says.
  3. Align resolutions with your values: It's easier to stick with resolutions if they align with who you are. Then the “why” behind them makes sense. So if you decide to give up smoking, for example, it’s easier to say no to a cigarette if you connect that with a longer life or a reduced disease risk.
  4. Monitor your progress: Once you decide to adopt a new habit, track your progress in a diary or calendar. "It could be as simple as writing a check mark on the days you completed the new habit," Richardson says. "You'll learn quickly whether the goal is reasonable or whether it requires some tweaking." Maybe meditating five days each week is too much straight out of the gate. Once you realize that, you can adjust.
  5. Start simple: If you bite off more than you can chew from day one, you're setting yourself up for failure. Instead, start by setting goals for the month or the week, particularly if you have a lot of things you want to change. Setting and achieving short-term goals will help lead you to larger, long-term goals.
  6. Write a contract: There's a level of accountability that comes with writing things down. "I have one client, a lawyer, who decided to write a contract with himself to stop smoking," says Richardson. It's a great strategy, particularly if you fill it with details about what you’ll do, when you’ll do it and the steps you'll take to achieve the end goal.
  7. Don't judge yourself: Resolutions aren't pass/fail, so don't be hard on yourself. "Remind yourself that you're just collecting data about your current skill set," says Richardson. Once you have the information about how you're doing with a particular resolution, you can modify it to work better with your lifestyle and abilities.
  8. Celebrate your successes: Don't forget to reward yourself for a job well done. Hitting the track three mornings each week? Buy yourself a massage. Turning in early to bed and getting more sleep? Take yourself to a matinee. Recognizing your achievements can motivate you to continue with a positive habit.

New Year, New Start

Don't wait until January 1 to start planning for the new year. Think about how you can achieve your goals for a better life right now.

"Make a list of the things that are going well and a separate list of things you would like to improve," says Richardson. "That will help you tease out what you should focus on first." Even if you don't achieve every objective, you're taking positive steps and developing an awareness of how you can change your life for the better.

Not sure how to get started? Meet with a health coach to help you brainstorm strategies for the year ahead. Health coaches are uniquely skilled at helping you uncover your own personal drivers and outline achievable steps to set the stage for success.


If you are interested in working with a health coach to reach your goals, call (313) 874-6273 or visit henryford.com. Want more advice from our wellness experts? Subscribe today to receive weekly emails of our latest tips.

Aimee Richardson, MCHES, CHWC, NCTTP, leads the health coaching program at Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She is an experienced health educator and certified tobacco treatment specialist.

Categories: FeelWell