3 Great Ways to Create a New Year’s Resolution That Sticks

Ryan Porter


Photo by Kylo on Unsplash

Your first mistake is calling it a New Year’s resolution

My New Year’s resolution is to remember everything about 2020 and to never take anything in my life for granted again.

Yep, I said it. I want to remember every detail of this past year. I want to take the lessons I’ve learned over the past nine months and engrave them into my brain.

Many of you probably want to forget 2020. You want to leave this year in the dust behind you. This year has been horrible, and it’s undone the lives of so many families.

What is a New Year’s resolution supposed to look like in 2021 anyway?

Things are shaping out to be a little different this year and I think my interpretation of resolutions will live on: they don’t work, and I’ll explain why.

Making a resolution is like making a promise without any consequences. What’s the worst that’ll happen if you don’t read two books every month in 2021? Probably nothing.

You’ll just feel bad about yourself for a little while but then move on with your life. “There’s always next year,” you’ll say as you mentally close the chapter on the resolution you said you’d fulfill.

I want to say that New Year’s resolutions work. On paper, they should have a higher success rate. They are exciting opportunities to better oneself. Yet, it’s a commonly held notion that New Year’s resolutions fail.

You can still accomplish your goal without putting the “resolution” label on it, and I’ll explain how.

1. Don’t treat it like a resolution

The worst thing you can do is call your goal a “New Year’s resolution.” 50% of the population creates a New year’s Resolutions every year, and 80% of those people fail them by the end of February.

The bottom line is that most resolutions fail because they require you to make complete shifts from the lifestyle you were previously living.

Starting a resolution is like packaging your habits, feelings, and current lifestyle, and throwing it into an ice bath.

Even though the resolution sounds exciting at first, because it’s implied that you will succeed, it’s going to shock you to the core. Once you’re in, all you’re you’ll want to do is get out.

Instead of adhering to a resolution, create a small, obtainable goal you can reach on a week-to-week basis.

You need to ease yourself into the deep end. Start in the kiddie pool, and eventually you’ll earn the confidence to do a double backflip off the diving board.

And I know how hard it is to start something new. New things are scary because there isn’t a feeling of security. Walk into the gym for the first time and you’ll know what I mean.

Szu-chi Huang, assistant professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, says this about taking small steps that lead to a larger goal:

“When you are just starting a pursuit, feeling reassured that it’s actually doable is important, and achieving a sub-goal increases that sense of attainability.”

You’re opening the door to new possibilities, but also new chances to fail.

Embracing the idea of failure is the first thing you need to accept. Without it, you won’t grow. Failure is a prerequisite for success.

When it comes to your goal, whether it’s watching less TV or drinking less alcohol, there’s no point in completely eliminating the vice if you know it’s always going to be there.

After I graduated college, I was unhappy with my weight. My face looked sluggish and I wanted to shed some pounds. It took me two years to get to a comfortable place, but I never suffered through the process.

How did I lose 15 pounds without ever feeling like I was starving myself?

  • I settled for minor goals every week.
  • I slowly replaced the foods I ate on a daily basis with lower calorie alternatives.
  • I lifted heavier and ran more consistently over time.

Have you heard that story about the tortoise and the hare? It’s pretty well known, and its message translates to so many aspects of life. Slow and steady wins the race. Slow progress is still movement in the right direction.

Imagine what you can do when you recognize the slight changes you can make in your own life, and capitalize on them.

2. Start today instead on January 1st

At my core, I’m pretty lazy. If I could, I’d watch the sunrise every morning and sleep until the early afternoon. Then I’d make a late breakfast, read while sipping English breakfast tea, and play on my Playstation 5 until evening.

Instead, I have to trick myself to be as productive as possible. Even on my days off, I spend my time at my desk typing articles or researching story ideas.

I also exercise at least five times a week, and this dedication takes up a large chunk of my time.

How did I get here? It sure didn’t happen overnight. If I met my college self, I’d have to look away. I’m different now because I adopted a “start today” mentality.

This mindset is the direct product of my need to be productive. I don’t want to seem lazy to anyone, but I especially don't want to seem lazy to myself. You don’t have to like it to do it. Starting your goal is a matter of dealing with the pain for a moment, and building good habits over time.

I think too many people know what they should be doing, but they do something else instead because it’s easier.

This is called procrastination, and it doesn’t go away after you graduate from grade school. In fact, the stakes get higher.

It’s easier to push off your goals once you realize it may take years to accomplish said goal. It’ll also take a serious amount of effort to get there.

What’s the point of starting today if I can just start tomorrow?

To play devil’s advocate, your goal isn’t going to go away if you push it off. You can always lose weight, or find a higher paying job, or move out of your parents house.

However, the idea of pushing off goals is a domino effect. Once you get that ball rolling, it’s hard to stop it in its tracks.

Bringing it back to the New Year’s resolution, the idea of holding off on attempting your resolution doesn’t make any sense. Nothing changes when the clock strikes midnight.

The only thing that changes is that there are less cookies on the table because the holidays are over. If your mindset doesn’t change, then you won’t.

Pick yourself up and take the first step now during the month or months before January 1st. If you want to go through with your resolution, you can, but get a running start first. It’ll make the process easier down the line.

3. Make it fun

Attempting a weight loss program, building a business, or starting a blog isn’t a sure-fire way of riding off into the sunset. There will be ups and downs in the process of reaching your goal. The point is that there are “ups.”

In 2019, while working on my startup, I remember meeting with the VP of operations of a major food service company in Los Angeles. She was a potential key to unlocking new avenues to sell our product.

Usually the CEO of my startup would handle these kinds of meetings, but as it happened, he was busy handling something else. Naturally, I had to take care of business myself.

I was nervous, but the meeting went smoothly. I walked back to my car with a smile because I was able to handle the situation on my own. I was having fun playing the role of a sales rep, even though that wasn’t my usual job.

I found a sense of enjoyment when my startup was in a tricky spot, and I think this idea translates to other pursuits as well. You won’t lose weight, for example, unless you learn to enjoy the process of doing it.

Make the process of achieving your goal fun by:

  • Rewarding yourself for reaching a milestone.
  • Pursuing the goal with a motivating friend. Our friendships are our most valuable currency.
  • Treating your pursuit like it’s a game
  • Laughing at yourself when you take a step backward. Bounce back the next day with a positive attitude.

Creativity is key here, and that goes for any “resolution.” If you can’t find a creative way to achieve a goal that works for you, phone a friend.

Your friends want nothing but the best for you. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be your friends. Trust in yourself, your friends, and the process you come up with in order to achieve your goals.

Final (Bonus) thought

Something I’m prone to is measuring my version of success against other people. I know I shouldn’t do this because everyone has their own background.

Whatever your goal is, you should only compete against yourself.

Don’t shape yourself up to people who have been living your newly adopted lifestyle for many years. You’ll burn yourself out if you try and go at someone else’s pace.

Again, consistency is key. You have to find your own unique way to do something over and over again. You do this by testing different variations. Find what works for you, and ride that rocket of success to the moon.

For example, I found that I’m able to post three blogs a week consistently. I didn’t used to have this habit. I built it up over time.

  • Don’t treat your goal like a resolution: You’ll put unnecessary pressure on yourself to change faster than you’re ready to.
  • Start today: Don’t push things off until tomorrow if you can help it.
  • Enjoy the process: Make each step along the way as fun as possible. Put yourself in a position to succeed and trick your brain into enjoying it.

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I write about startup culture, productivity, and life's moments. My goal is to serve as a teacher for the next generation of content creators.

Los Angeles, CA

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