How to Make a New Year’s Resolution You Will Actually Keep

Ah, New Year’s.

A time of optimism and fresh starts. Are you a resolution person? Or are you someone that knows you won’t follow through, so you never make them in the first place?

For the last 10 or so years, I’ve rolled my eyes whenever people mention New Year’s Resolutions. Sure I would love to lose 20 pounds, learn something new, read more books, or focus on self-care. But who has time for all of that and who actually sticks to it and makes real change in their lives? Because if there isn’t REAL life change, why bother making the resolution in the first place?

This year, I am making resolutions. Or rather, I am setting goals. At the beginning of 2017, my life was in a very different place than it is today, even though it doesn’t look that different from the outside . . . yet. In April, I made two big decisions:

1) I wanted to jump in and start a business.

My mom and I have long talked about how we could make a lot more money if we put our teaching ideas together and became educational consultants. I’m a HUGE proponent of arts integration and how it increases engagement, teaches a growth mindset and develops brain connections that make learning easier and last longer. So, Learning Artistically was born and I dove head first into the world of blogging, online course creation, and marketing. (Everything Happens in Threes came a couple months later)

2) A few weeks later, I decided I wanted to go to grad school.

Yeah, I know – I have 3 little kids, I work full time and I’m already overwhelmed with the amount of stuff on my plate. Buuuuut, my life isn’t going to get any easier for the next 20 years or so. If Reagan starting school has taught me anything, it’s that life is only getting more complex as my kids get older. So, now or never. And since the units and master’s degree will come with a hefty raise as long as I stay teaching, “never” would be pretty foolish.

What is it about these two big changes that has got me making resolutions?

First of all, I decided that I could do these things that I want to do now or I could let another year go by without doing them. The answer was easy – do them now. Once I took charge of my life like that, setting goals came naturally AND I realized how critical goal setting was to my success. Without a clear vision and goals, it’s so easy to just let life pass you by until you realize that years have gone by and you haven’t been living any of it the way you truly want to.

So here we are at the edge of a new year and I am ALL about resolutions for the first time in many years. And I will be successful at keeping them, because now I have a strategy.

1. Set goals and resolutions that matter.

If you don’t care about it, it’s not going to happen. Life will keep moving forward and you will find excuses to do something else with your time. So while I would love to learn Spanish, it is not a priority because it isn’t going to change my life much. Instead, I am going to focus only on the things that move my life toward the life that I want to be living.

2. Make SMART goals.

I feel like the idea of SMART goals have been everywhere the last few yea

rs, but if you haven’t heard of SMART goals before, it’s a great method for creating real, actionable goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound. What does that mean? It’s great to say you want to get healthy in the new year, but what does that actually mean? A SMART New Year’s Resolution might be something like, I am going to lose 20 pounds in 6 months by joining a challenge group and doing weekly meal planning. It’s specific in what you want to accomplish AND how you will do it. You can measure the results. The goal is something you have control over to a large degree since you can control your food intake and how much you exercise. The goal is realistic – 20 pounds in 6 months is a very reasonable amount. It has a calendar deadline to keep you focused and motivated. Got it? Good, now . . .

3. Set guideposts or checkpoints for yourself and write them down.

Write your resolutions and goals down. In fact, write it down and put it on your fridge or your bathroom mirror. Then break it down into smaller goals. What do you need to accomplish along the way and give yourself some deadlines for those checkpoints. Write those checkpoints down in your planner, I like to use the month view, so that you stay on track.

4. Plan and Reassess

I touched on this in the last point, but you need a HOW not just a WHAT. What is your goal and what steps are you going to take to make sure that happens? If your time frame is 6 months, figure out how much you need to accomplish each month to stay on track. If after the first month you are nowhere near your goal, don’t give up, break it down into smaller chunks and maybe expand your timeline. Sometimes (and with some goals) you will find that you start off slowly, but gain momentum over time. Don’t get upset if things don’t go the way you planned, just take some time to make a new realistic plan.

5. Get a Buddy

If you have accountability, you will always be more successful. Having someone go on a journey with you helps you stay focused and stay honest. I find that it’s also helpful to have it be someone that has similar goals. If you just want someone to remind you and keep you accountable, their reminders will start to sound like nagging and judgement. If they are working toward the same goal, it feels more like encouragement. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, get a friend, your husband or a relative that is working toward the same vision and do it together. Determine a way to stay in regular contact whether it be in a Facebook group, daily texts, or weekly meetups so that you don’t let the business of life get in the way.

Aaaaaaand because I am a huge musical theatre nerd, I’ll leave you with some inspiration from one of my all time favorite shows, In the Heights, by the amazing Lin Manuel Miranda

“It’s silly when we get into these crazy hypotheticals. You really want some bread? Then go ahead create a set of goals and cross them off your list as you pursue ’em. And with that ninety-six, I know precisely what I’m doin’.” -Usnavi, In the Heights

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