A Visual Plan on How to Set Your New Year’s Resolutions

Brad Paisley

Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.


The Odds Are Stacked Against You…

Did you know that only 8 percent (or maybe it’s 12 percent) of people end up accomplishing their New Year’s Resolutions? That means that 92 (or 88) out of 100 New Year’s Resolutions end in incomplete and utter failure. Yes, you might very well be motivated to achieve those New Year’s goals today, tomorrow, next week, and maybe even for the whole month of January, but the reality is that you will end up a statistic (just like most) and join the ever-growing number of people who will give up on their New Year’s Resolutions this year.

I’m of course not trying to “pop your balloon” by making you feel as though there is no hope in the world of ever achieving your desired aims, but statistics do not lie. And as a result, the likelihood of your success is very minimal, and you will no doubt end up feeling miserable as a result. 🙁 In fact, your likelihood of success is roughly 10 percent. But in reality, it could be much lower than that. You see, there are those people who consistently achieve their New Year’s Resolutions almost every single year. And then there are those who almost never (or have never) achieved their New Year’s Resolutions. If you belong to this second category of people then, unfortunately, your chances of success for the coming year are much lower than 10 percent. 🙁


The Reasons Why People Fail to Achieve their New Year’s Resolutions

But why? Why do some people continuously fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolutions year after year? What is missing? What are they doing wrong? Are they just unlucky? Do they simply lack willpower? Maybe these people are just lazy. Just maybe they don’t have what it takes to achieve their desired aims for the year? Maybe…

There is no doubt that it takes a little willpower to achieve your desired objectives. However, studies have proven that our willpower is a finite resource. Maybe that’s why we fail to stick with it for the long-haul. But hang on a moment… other studies have proven that willpower is all in our heads, or in other words, just a state of mind. So now I’m confused??? Is it finite or infinite? Honestly, I don’t think it matters. What matters is for us to get a better understanding of what it really takes to achieve our desired aims.

For starters, we must understand that any New Year’s Resolution we set in motion will require a full commitment on our part. A half-hearted commitment is only wishful thinking and will get us nowhere. When you fully commit to doing something you “at that moment” acknowledge that you will allow for change to take place. After all, achieving your New Year’s Resolutions will require that things change in your life. And for things to change, you must be open and willing to accept change. In other words, you must be willing to change… YOURSELF. Only through change “within yourself” can you expect for change to take place outside of yourself. And that is where most people go wrong.

However, when it comes to the process of change it’s important that we understand that change takes time, it takes energy, it takes effort and a lot of patience on your part. Sometimes you can put in a lot of effort, time and energy for very little return (at the least it seems that way). And that is of course when patience comes into the picture. Patience allows you to commit to long-term results and outcomes, and not get discouraged by short-term obstacles and setbacks.

Now, about those long-term results. Well, these results only come “as a result” of a change in behavior, perspective, priorities, and often beliefs. You, therefore, cannot just decide on New Year’s Eve to set some New Year’s Resolutions in motion and expect that you realistically know what it takes to achieve them. Most people have absolutely no idea. They have no idea because they don’t realize that to achieve the desired aim requires “change” to take place within themselves. For instance, change must take place in the way they do things, in the habits that they indulge in, in the way they view their world and circumstances, in the way they set their priorities, etc. I guess, looking at it this way, the road to achieving your New Year’s Resolutions doesn’t look so easy. However, unfortunately, that’s not all that is required. Yes, there’s more…

Successfully achieving your New Year’s Resolutions requires building a positive environment that supports your desired aims. It also requires the support of like-minded people; requires saying “no” to stuff that doesn’t matter or saying “no” to stuff that distracts you from your main path. You see, many times we set all these wonderful New Year’s Resolutions, however, the reality is that we simply do not have the room in our lives for these resolutions to come to fruition. We simply have too many other responsibilities, commitments, distractions, and goals that we give too much priority towards, and as a result there just isn’t enough room in our lives for more. But there could be…

You create room in your life by dumping and/or re-prioritizing. Get rid of all the baggage, and with all the rest of the stuff assess where your priorities lie and make changes accordingly. That is the only way you will create enough room in your life for your New Year’s Resolutions.

But even with all this space now available in your life, you will still need to assign a specific set of behaviors each day and week to each New Year Resolution you set. And this is where many, many people go wrong. They go wrong because they don’t persist for long enough. The behaviors you indulge in turn into habits only after repeated use. For some people, this could take a month, but for most people, this can take up to three months or more. Yes, forget about developing habits in 21 days. For some habits, this is certainly possible, but for many other habits, you need a lot longer than 21 days. As such you must commit to your New Year’s Resolutions for an entire year, only then will you see sustainable results.

I guess all this kind of provides us with an interesting clue into the process of setting effective New Year’s Resolutions. And that, of course, lies in setting specific goals.

You have probably heard that you need to set very specific goals. The more specific the better and the more likely you are to achieve them. Writing down specific goals isn’t bad. It’s certainly better than having wishful goals that you can’t track or measure. However, when it comes to your New Year’s Resolutions writing down specific goals isn’t quite enough. Yes, certainly have them there written in front of you, but you also need one additional ingredient.

Facts About Setting New Year's Resolutions


The Missing Ingredient Within New Year’s Resolutions

What you will need is a list of specific intentions, actions, and activities you will partake in on a daily, weekly and monthly basis that will help you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions. In other words, you need to break down each of your goals into the smallest possible chunks. And these small chunks are of course made up of daily behaviors you will indulge in.

Through small daily actions over an extended period of time, you will progressively develop the necessary habits needed to achieve the New Year’s Resolutions you set yourself. And that’s it. It’s as simple as that. This is, in essence, the one true secret to achieving your resolutions. That’s all there is to know unless of course there is more. Well, there is more. There is the knowledge of how to put this secret into practical action to help you achieve your goals. And that’s exactly what we will look at within the remainder of this article.


Attain Your New Year’s Resolutions in Six Steps

You now have the foundations of what it takes to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions. However, you may still yet need the step-by-step process on how to put that knowledge into action. But before you jump into this process, it’s important to understand that working through these six steps will take a lot of commitment on your part. Achieving your New Year’s Resolution will probably not be an easy journey, in fact, it could be very taxing emotionally and it may require that you completely step outside your comfort zone.

Often making permanent changes in your life will require that you get uncomfortable by doing things that create uncertainty which may very well manifest in fear. In fact, you may very well need to deal with a wide variety of uncomfortable emotions along your journey. Dealing successfully with these emotions will require a little emotional intelligence on your part. You need to be prepared for the roller-coaster ride you are about to board. But I’m not talking about preparing physically. I’m talking about preparing mentally because achieving your New Year’s Resolutions will have more to do with your state-of-mind than anything else. Get your mind right, and everything else will eventually fall into place.

In preparation for your New Year’s Resolutions begin by eliminating unhelpful thoughts, and by strengthening your belief systems. Likewise, it’s important to understand what it takes to avoid the pitfalls of instant gratification. This will, of course, require a little understanding of how the pain and pleasure principle works.

I can understand that this is a lot to take in. But if you want real results in your life then you will need to first put in the necessary mental work and effort to get the job done. There are no shortcuts here. You will either go through these steps or you will fall back into old habits and patterns of behavior that will lead you down the path of another failed attempt. The choice, of course, is completely yours to make.

What follows is a six-step process that will help you put all that mental work into practical action to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions. This process is quite straightforward, however, it will take diligent effort on your part to follow through with each step throughout the year.

Step 1: Take Time to Reflect

The first step of this process involves a period of self-reflection and introspection. This is a very important step because it lays down the foundations for the New Year’s Resolutions you will set for the coming 12 months. These foundations are set in place when you clearly understand where you’ve come from, what you’ve done to get here, and how your life will potentially unfold in the future as a result of these experiences.

To begin with, let’s examine the year that was by asking the following set of questions:

What’s my life been like over the past 12 months?

What went well that I am grateful for?

What didn’t go so well or could have gone better? Hardships? Setbacks? Challenges?

What is currently missing in my life that I expected to have?

In how many ways has my life changed over the past 12 months?

How have my experiences shaped me? How as a result have I changed as a person?

What new skills did I develop? How do they now serve me?

What valuable knowledge have I gained? How does that now serve me?

How have I been of value to others over the past year? What insights have I gained?

Did I achieve my desired outcomes? Why or why not?

What valuable lessons did I learn over the course of the year that can now serve me moving forward?

How can I build on the past year for the New Year?

Now that you have a clear understanding of the path you have taken over the past 12 months, it is now important to build on these experiences for the New Year. One way to do this is by piecing together a compelling future. This compelling future must allow you to move on from all the things that may have held you back in the previous calendar year. However, to do this, you must first clearly define your priorities and intentions for the coming 12 months. Ask yourself:

What matters most to me?

How would I like to positively change my life?

How would I like to grow and develop as a person?

What kind of person would I like to become?

How could I potentially make a positive difference in people’s lives?

What’s one goal above all others that I would like to achieve this coming year?

Why do I want this goal in my life?

What good will come of achieving this goal?

Why is all this important? Why now?

Now that you have a pretty good understanding of what your priorities and intentions are for the coming 12 months, it’s important to take time to identify any unhelpful behaviors, beliefs and/or habits you previously indulged in that will no longer serve you down this new path. Ask yourself:

Given my priorities and intentions, what beliefs will no longer serve me?

What new beliefs would be worthwhile adopting?

What habits or behaviors could potentially sabotage my progress over the coming year?

What new habits or rituals would it be worthwhile adopting that are aligned with my priorities and intentions?

It’s important to understand that the intentions you set for the New Year will never be realized if you keep living at the same level as last year. New goals require a new set of habits, rituals, and beliefs. These three elements in combination will help you create the momentum you need to follow through with your intentions to attain your New Year’s Resolutions. You will, therefore, need to make modifications on all three levels if you desire to realize concrete long-term results. And of course, the best way to begin doing this is by raising your personal standards.

How to Set New Year's Resolutions

Step 2: Outline Your Goals

It’s now time to turn your priorities and intentions for the coming year into clearly defined goals. This is, of course, best done on paper. A goal that isn’t down on paper is nothing more but a fleeting dream that you hope will materialize one of these days. Therefore to begin with, jot your most important goal down on paper by using the SMART goal setting process as a guide. Some words of caution…

Do not set goals just to impress others. Goals with the clear intent of impressing other people are rarely realized because there is just not enough intrinsic motivation (coming from within yourself) behind them. On the other hand, goals that are built upon your core values, passions and motivations hold the ingredients you need to stick it out for the long-haul despite the various challenges you might face along your journey.

One of the key guidelines here is to set a goal that is in-line with your core values. In other words, you must effectively set goals that bridge the gap between your values and actions. For example, if your top three core values are family, adventure and money, then the goal you set must address these three areas in some way. In this instance, your actions will support your deepest passions and as a result, you will be more inclined to follow-through with your intentions even when setback and challenges arise. Ask yourself:

Who am I doing this for?

Why do I want this goal in my life?

Why do I believe that this goal is doable?

Does this goal align with my passions and purpose?

What are my five core values? Does my goal address all of them?

Having answered these questions, it’s now time to make a full commitment. To do this, ask yourself:

Am I willing to fully commit to this goal?

Am I realistically able to commit to the attainment of this goal?

It’s, of course, important you are honest with yourself. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can attain this goal without realistically considering the sacrifices you will need to make to bring this goal to reality. Attaining your goals requires personal sacrifice.  Are you willing to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions? If you are, then you can move onto step three. Otherwise, find out how to create unwavering commitment.

Step 3: Create an Action Plan

Having now clearly outlined your goals, it’s time to create a plan of action. However, this isn’t your typical plan of action. This action plan must primarily focus on indulging in habits and behaviors that will help bring your goal to fruition. These habits result in action, and action leads to progress. Progress, of course, isn’t a straight line. You will, therefore, experience some victories as well as setbacks. However, through consistent action, you will eventually get to your destination even if it repeatedly involves taking two steps forward and one step back.

This process might, of course, take some time. As a result, it’s important to create mini-goals for yourself along this journey. These mini-goals are your pit-stops where you can rest and recharge before continuing your journey. Having time-frames along this journey for each pit-stop is of course also very important. These time-frames help you measure your progress.

Of course, as with all journeys, you might need to pack a few indispensable tools into your backpack. It might, therefore, be helpful to build a resource list.

Do I need any resources?

Will I need any specific tools?

Would gaining more knowledge about something help?

What about support? Do I have anyone that could support or guide me?

But even with all these things in place and the right resources at your disposal, you will still undoubtedly suffer setbacks. These setbacks can come in the form of mistakes, distractions, interruptions, and what might seem as a complete and utter failure. Taking all these setbacks into account before you venture onto your journey can help you to make better decisions when obstacles do eventually arise. Ask yourself:

How could I possibly falter along this journey?

Who might potentially sabotage my progress?

What distractions might I face?

What mistakes could I potentially make?

How will I respond to all these setbacks?

Once you have the answers to all these questions, it’s now time to design your plan of action around specific actions you will take that will help you develop the necessary habits and rituals to bring your goals to fruition.

A Process for Creating New Year's Resolutions

Step 4: Take Action

With your plan of action in place, it’s now time to take action on your New Year’s Resolutions. This is where many people often go wrong. With unbridled enthusiasm they just jump straight into the race in a massive sprint, never realizing that they have just entered a marathon. In other words, they take so much action early that they quickly get tired, burnt out, overwhelmed and demotivated when they don’t see visible results. Then soon enough distractions get in the way, there is no longer that excitement and energy behind their actions, and slowly but surely the New Year’s Resolution goes on the back-burner and is forgotten for another year. Have you forgotten that…

Slow and steady wins the race…

The journey towards your goal is a marathon. And to run a successful marathon it’s important to pace yourself accordingly. This is especially true if you have never in your life ran a marathon before or pursued a particular goal before. As such, it’s important to start slowly and methodically to turn progressive actions into long-lasting habits that will serve you along your journey. Work on creating small successes over time, and then raise the bar (your personal standards) as you become more familiar and comfortable with your actions. In this way, you will build the necessary momentum you need over time.

Remember that this isn’t about reaching perfection. This is rather about creating sustainable change over time. And the only way to create sustainable change is by taking one step at a time. I’m sure you’ve heard that…

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…

That’s right. One small step after another step is what it will take to reach your final destination. And of course the best place to start is right here right now:

What’s one small thing I could do right now to move me forward towards my goal?

What’s my next step? What about the step after that?

Step 5: Maintain Consistency

It’s very possible that the actions you take may very well bring about inconsistent results. In fact, for a period of time, even though you are doing all the right things, you might see no visible results at all. This can, of course, be quite disheartening, and it certainly gives you a reason to quit on your New Year’s Resolutions. However, seeing no results doesn’t mean you are making no progress. You see, progress isn’t always measured in results, it’s rather measured by your actions.

Therefore when the “Going Gets Tough” and results are hard to come by, it’s important to focus on the process of consistently developing critical habits required to achieve your goals. And the best way to develop these habits is to create “action triggers”.

Action triggers are small actions you take before partaking in a critical habit associated with your goal. For instance, if you enjoy reading books, you could set yourself to read a book for 15 minutes every day at a specific time. Reading the book is your “action trigger”. This action trigger then leads to a very specific behavior such as exercising for 10 minutes on a treadmill. Therefore each time you read a book for 15 minutes you immediately follow that action with another action that is aligned with the goal you would like to achieve. And of course, with repetition, these actions will turn into consistent habits that help support the goal you are working towards.

To gain clarity in this area, ask yourself the following questions:

What goal am I working towards?

What consistent daily actions could I take to develop the necessary habits to help me achieve this goal?

Why is it important to take these actions? How will I take them? When? Where?

What critical habits and rituals will I develop as a result of taking these consistent actions?

What are some small things I enjoy doing that I could use as “action triggers”?

What “action triggers” will I assign to specific goal oriented behaviors?

Once you have your “action triggers” in place, commit yourself to using them each and every day to trigger very specific behaviors that will help you move towards the attainment of your New Year’s Resolutions. Consistency is, of course, the key here. The more consistent you are the better your results will be over the long-haul. However, it is, of course, important to remain flexible in your approach.

If something isn’t quite working as expected, don’t hesitate to change things up a little. Just maybe, taking a different approach or getting some guidance can help improve your results. However, be cautious with the changes you make. Your actions, not your results matter in the short-term. Developing consistent habits holds the key to your long-term success.

A Method for Setting New Year's Resolutions

Step 6: Keep Yourself Accountable

The final step to attaining your New Year’s Resolutions is to hold yourself accountable for your choices, decisions, and actions as you make progress along your journey. Holding yourself accountable means being honest with yourself at all times. It means refraining from indulging in pitiful excuses that take you off track. It also means avoiding “All or Nothing” thinking. Here is an example:

I will do things perfectly or not at all…

In other words, what you might be saying here is that “unless I have time to exercise for 30 minutes today I won’t exercise at all.” Thinking this way will just hinder your progress. There is no perfection here. Achieving your New Year’s Resolution is about consistent action. So what if you don’t have 30 minutes to exercise today? 10 minutes is better than nothing. Just do it, and go back to your normal schedule the next day. Consistency is the key, however above all else you must hold yourself accountable for these kinds of choices throughout the day. And if you struggle to hold yourself accountable, then hire someone who will do it for you. Get an accountability partner and hold each other accountable for each action that moves the both of you closer to attaining your New Year’s Resolutions.

Along with accountability, it’s important to keep a positive outlook despite the many missteps you will most likely have along your journey. One way to do this is to make things fun. Don’t take your pursuit of this goal so seriously. Have fun with the process and with the journey you are on. With a little bit of fun, accountability and consistent action you will no doubt create the momentum you need to achieve your desired aims this year.


Concluding Thoughts

Having read through this entire article, it’s quite clear that attaining our New Year’s Resolutions is quite an involving process. And this is exactly why so many people fail each and every year. They fail because they don’t quite understand what it takes to achieve the goals they set for themselves. And no doubt, achieving your New Year’s Resolutions might not be easy. In fact, it might be a struggle at times. However, by working through these six steps and by turning consistent actions into habits that support your goals, you may very well end up being one of the 8 to 10 percent of people this year who will successfully realize their New Year’s Resolutions.

I wish you the greatest of success along this journey and the very best for the year ahead. 🙂


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Setting New Year's Resolutions

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.