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A new year is a time we often begin to look to the future with high hopes and bright spirits. We can see so clearly all the parts of our lives that we really want to change, and we are certain that this will be the year that it happens. But shortly after committing to something new, we often find that initial spark burning out. Soon we fall into old habits and routines, and feel the weight of failure on our shoulders as those lofty aspirations wither. To ensure your resolutions last this time, you can follow a few simple steps.


Start Small

We’ve all been guilty of biting off more than we can chew when setting goals. We often ink ourselves up for too much at one time, and then wonder why we fell short. Rather than trying to tackle your budget habits, veggie portions, soda cravings, and gym routine all at once, pick one thing and focus on just that. By putting our energy into one habit, we are more likely to be successful in sticking with it. 

Once you have decided which area you want to start with, you will likely need to break that goal down even further. Big goals like dropping 50 lbs. or saving $10,000 cannot be accomplished in a single step, so looking at them as a one-and-done is a pitfall many get trapped in. Instead, determine all of the little steps you can take to reach that big goal, such as losing 5 lbs. at a time or saving $100 and increasing once you can actually hit that smaller goal.



This buzzword has held up for good reason. SMART goals help to narrow and define your goal clearly and concisely so you can actually achieve what you are after. The SMART method consists of the following components:

  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Achievable
  • R = Relevant
  • T = Time-bound

By identifying these 5 core areas of your goal, you can walk away with a statement that is realistic and within your reach. Rather than making blanket statements like “Eat more protein,” use the SMART method and remove any vagueness from your goal. Instead, your goal could be “Eat 5 grams of protein at each meal for 1 month.”


Know Your Limits

It’s easy to let the excitement blind you to your real feelings and daily life. In the moment, your vision board can make it seem easy to tackle it all. However, it is critical to know what you are not willing to do to reach your goal. Acknowledging your limitations does not make you a failure; on the contrary, you will have a better chance of success by being fully honest with yourself about the things you feel are within your capacity to change, and the things that aren’t.

Your wills and won’ts are not permanent, so just because you aren’t willing to do something now doesn’t mean it will be that way forever. If you want more leafy greens in your diet but hate salad, don’t try to force feed yourself salads at every meal. Give yourself the out that you don’t need to like salads right now, and look for more realistic alternatives that you will actually enjoy. You can always try again from time to time without the pressure to change hard and fast rules all at once. When you can stick within your limits, your goals are much easier to reach and more rewarding along the way.


Find Your “Why”

Change isn’t easy, even if you know it is essential or will make your life better in the long run. In order to feel good about a challenging new habit, you need to determine why you are working to make this change in the first place. Getting to the root of your habit will make it more meaningful to you, and will make it easier to stick with when times get tough. Being disciplined is hard enough without a cause, so discovering yours will give you a huge advantage in overcoming obstacles as they crop up.

While motivation can be a powerful tool, there will be some days that you struggle to keep your energy up. It’s important to give yourself plenty of wiggle room to be human and have bad days without getting off track. Having the right amount of discipline to power through while practicing compassion to yourself is a delicate balance that can make a big difference. When willpower fails or life gets in the way, be kind to yourself and keep moving forward.

  • Stewart, K. J. (n.d.). Exercise and the Heart: How Exercise Helps the Heart. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  • Colberg, et al. (November 2016). Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. American Diabetes Association.
  • Hame, S.L. (2016). Sports Tip: Exercising for Bone Health. The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine.