Do you do New Year’s resolutions? There’s something very compelling about the new year and a fresh start that inspires us.

As we reminisce about the past year – its accomplishments and disappointments – we have an opportunity to evaluate whether or not we are closer to the person we want to be. What did we learn in the past year? Did we make a difference in someone’s life? Without a tangible sign of a new beginning, we tend to operate on auto pilot, not really making plans or goals about who we want to be.

As much as we want to change, we all know how difficult it can be to succeed at our resolutions. Here are some ideas to help you be successful. 

How you define your goal or resolution is the first important thing to consider. When making meaningful changes, less is more. It’s hard to focus on more than 1-2 resolutions at one time.  Is the resolution realistic, attainable? Is it specific? Organizing one’s office, for example, needs to be defined as cleaning out file drawers and cleaning off the desk, etc. Can your resolution be measured? How will you know you have reached your goal? For example, resolve to lose a certain number of pounds rather than just “lose weight.” Can this resolution be broken down into steps? Think from the perspective of the future and having accomplished your goal. What did you need to do to get there?

Once you have decided on a resolution, be proactive by giving serious thought to what might make you fail. Possibilities may include lack of motivation, fear of failure, discouragement, forgetfulness, and procrastination. 

I have some suggestions for these.

1. Lack of motivation: Is the change you want to make important or just a good idea? What is the reason for wanting this change? Visualize success. Spend time day-dreaming about it. Author and life coach Anna Russo recommends writing a one-year autobiography in advance. She suggests writing a letter describing your goals as if they have already happened and how you feel. Visualization can be powerful! 

2. Fear of failure: A large percentage of people who make resolutions quickly forget them. However, people who make resolutions to change are 10 times more likely to achieve those changes than people who want to change but never actually resolve to do so. It is unrealistic to expect yourself to keep a resolution perfectly all year. In fact, the word “resolution” itself evokes a certain sense of absoluteness; hence, we make resolutions that we either keep or don’t keep. I actually prefer setting goals rather than resolutions. A goal keeps me going forward even when I slip. I want to be better at something at the end of the year, not just keep a resolution for a few weeks or months and be back at the same place. 

3. Discouragement: Learn to recognize negative self-talk and counter it with more realistic affirmations. Get rid of “I should” statements which create guilt and aren’t very effective (or change them to “I would like” statements). Separate your self-esteem from your accomplishments. It also helps to break down a goal into bite-sized pieces. Reward yourself for completing steps, and celebrate successes along the way. 

4. Forgetfulness: Write notes in your appointment book or post your resolution on a mirror or refrigerator door where you will see it often. One expert even suggests saying resolutions out loud every day.

5. Procrastination: Sit down and write out the advantages and disadvantages of procrastinating. Remember that motivation follows action, not vice versa. Prime the pump with an action. For example, if you have a room to organize, start with one drawer or closet. Decide on a specific time and date you plan to do it. Eliminate distractions that might prevent you from following through. Share your resolution with friends for accountability.

Debbie Loyd is a licensed professional counselor in Astoria who works with adults and couples on a variety of issues. Readers can visit her web site at and her blog for couples at


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