Mental Health
How To Set New Year’s Resolutions That Work For You

How To Set New Year’s Resolutions That Work For You

5 min read


Caitlin Harper

It’s that time of year—the time when calls to set New Year’s resolutions start to fill our inboxes and our newsfeeds and, often, our heads. Should we set New Year’s resolutions at all? Should we buck the system and go resolution-free? Is there some happy medium?

Most people “fail” to achieve their New Year’s resolutions and while we’re not the biggest fans of New Year’s resolutions in the traditional sense, we love every opportunity we’re given to reflect and create goals.

So say you do want to set some resolutions or goals. You’re feeling motivated, but you know that in the past, you haven’t always followed through. How can you set yourself up for success?

Remind yourself that New Year’s resolutions don’t mean fundamentally changing who you are

You’re awesome as-is! If you want to set goals or resolutions, that is perfectly fine, but before you start diving in, consider your sense of self-worth.

Sometimes, when we make resolutions, we go a little overboard: we want to lose weight and make more money and find a partner or better our relationship and on and on and on. As the list grows longer, the possibility of doing it all shrinks—as does our self-confidence. If there are so many things we think we need to change, does that mean we’re somehow flawed right now as we are?

No! Overdoing our New Year’s resolutions list is a way of telling ourselves that we are not enough, but we are. That doesn’t mean we don’t get to learn and grow and change. What it does mean is that we don’t want to tell ourselves, if I just do X,Y,Z I’ll finally be the ideal version of myself—you are the version of yourself you are supposed to be right at this moment.

Before you make your list of resolutions, do some self-reflection

Make sure you know why you’re setting your resolutions and be sure to refrain from comparing yourself to others. Your resolutions are yours alone!

Instead of focusing on changing yourself or anything you think you might be doing wrong, examine what you’re doing right. What are the things you currently want to celebrate about yourself and your life? What are some things you have done in the past that have brought you fulfillment and made you feel grounded? And what patterns do you see across those things? Those might be your areas of focus, so instead of making a dozen resolutions across a number of different areas, you know that only two or three areas of your life might be very impactful and fulfilling for you.

From these topics, choose one area of focus for your resolution

Only one!? Yes! When we’re setting goals, we have to be SMART—that’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Once you achieve a goal, you can always set another, but we want to make sure we’re respecting each goal we make by giving it the time and attention it deserves, and respecting ourselves in the process.

Our CEO, Alyssa Petersel, breaks down how this looks in one of our SmallTalks:

  • Say you want to learn to meditate so you say you’re going to meditate an hour every day for the entire year.
  • If you’ve never meditated before, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment!
  • Instead, a more reasonable goal is to meditate an hour a day twice a week by the end of the year.
  • To move toward achieving that goal, start with something so small that it would almost be silly not to do it.
  • Every morning before you get out of bed, meditate for ten seconds.
  • After that becomes second nature, start taking ten minutes a day to listen to a guided meditation.
  • Keep breaking down your main goal of an hour twice a week into tiny, incremental steps that you can achieve and celebrate all year long that work toward that end goal.

It might sound like we’re setting a low bar for ourselves, but what we’re really doing is ensuring that we do achieve our goals so we’ll be motivated to continue rather than be defeated.

Instead of hard-and-fast resolutions, you could simply focus on being well

As we move into yet another year filled with uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to be kind, gentle, and patient with ourselves and others. Instead of a laser focus on goals and improvement, it’s more than enough to focus solely on being well.

If you’re worn out, burned out, and tired out, focusing on being well might sound like the most difficult “goal” of all. So start small and take it easy. Here are a few things to try:

  • Be kind to your body. Losing weight, exercising more, and eating better make up around one third of all New Year’s resolutions. While it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet, it’s just as important to embrace our bodies, enjoy food, and stay body positive. Exercise is great for your mental health, but it’s important to do what brings you joy and what works for you.
  • Nurture your mind. Pay attention to how much social media and news you consume, learn a new skill or improve one you already have, or simply take some time each day to do nothing.
  • Practice self care. Self care can look like setting aside an hour each week or month to take care of a to-do list so it doesn’t weigh on our minds. It can look like making that doctor (or therapist!) appointment that we’ve been putting off. It can mean setting aside money to pay off a credit card bill or starting to save for a trip. Self care is anything you do that fills your cup.

Plus, when you feel healthy and rested, you’ll be more likely to be able to turn your attention to goal-setting if that’s what you choose to do!

If you do want to set goals or work on a New Year’s resolution but are struggling to start, working with a therapist or coach can help

The new year is a great time to start thinking about finding a therapist or coach. If you’re not sure where to start, we have a step-by-step plan to find a therapist or coach in the new year, our ultimate guide to starting therapy or coaching, and our matching service to find the best therapist or coach for you.

Not sure if you would benefit from therapy? If you’ve been considering it at all, you probably would, and it doesn’t hurt to try.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, what’s most important is that we do what’s right for us right now

If we take some time for self-reflection, understand the areas of our life that would give us a sense of fulfillment, set an annual goal that is realistic, and take incremental steps to work toward that goal, we’re much more likely to achieve our New Year’s resolutions.

And if we’re not in the place to set big goals and want to simply focus on being well, that is perfect too. The most important thing is that you’re taking care in the new year.

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About the author

Caitlin is an organizational change strategist, advisor, writer, and the founder of Commcoterie, a change management communication consultancy. She helps leaders and the consultants who work with them communicate change for long-lasting impact. Caitlin is a frequent speaker, workshop facilitator, panelist, and podcast guest on topics such as organizational change, internal communication strategy, DEIBA, leadership and learning, management and coaching, women in the workplace, mental health and wellness at work, and company culture. Find out more, including how to work with her, at

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