Have You Given up on Your New Year’s Resolutions Already?


Every year, many of us go through the same ritual: look back on the previous year; look at the year ahead and see what kind of changes we want to make to become a different person by the end of the year. (Then again, I know some people who just don’t want to change. That can work too!)

According to Strava, most people have given up on their health-focused resolutions by mid-February. To be fair, keeping resolutions is hard because it often means developing new habits.

Forming new habits is difficult. Many people believe that developing a new habit requires 21 days. A 2009 study states that it can take from 18 to 254 days, with an average of around 66 days.

If you’ve given up on your resolutions, don’t worry. Just restart the year today.

The difficulty with developing a new habit is twofold: first of all, you have to stop the old habit and replace it with a new one. Secondly, you have to keep that momentum.

Many people find it easy and don’t understand why other people cannot pick up a new habit and just do it. It’s because it’s not that easy.

Changing is hard

I was listening to a recent episode of “Hidden Brain,” one of my favorite podcasts. The host, Shankar Vedantam, explained how we are creatures of habit and how you can’t break habits just because you want to. You need to take steps to do that.

Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

In the beginning, we tend to be all excited by our new goals, and we go at them with gusto. But inevitably, there comes a time when it becomes hard and boring; that’s when we want to give up.

I’ve been there, just like many of you. Even this writing thing, which will define the rest of my life, is a habit that I’m continually working on. I write every day, but I don’t publish every day, and part of it is because publishing — especially under my name — hasn’t become part of me yet. So most of the publishing I do is unseen or unattributed.

I’m looking to change that this year, along with some other facets of my life.

To achieve these goals, I looked into a few approaches that I’m going to use to make sure that by the end of the year, I’m in a better position and a better person than at the beginning.

Here are some of the tactics that I’m going to use to accomplish that. Feel free to steal any of them!

Ask these three questions

What are the three most important questions to ask before you start working on a new goal or changing a habit?

Photo by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

Question number one: why?

Question number two: why?

Question number three: you guessed it, why?

As I’ll explain later, there may even be a question number four, five, or even more.

Because changing habits or meeting goals can be difficult, the only way it’s going to happen is by having a reason to work at it.

Repeating “Why?” is a tactic that comes from sales. You apply it when you’re trying to find the emotional reason people want to buy something. It’s usually because they’re trying to get away from something or because they want to gain something.

However, if the reward at the end of the work doesn’t seem worth it, it’s easy to give up.

When you choose a goal, ask yourself why you want to reach that goal. Once you have that answer, ask yourself again.

And again.

And again.

Until you feel a physical, internal shift.

What do I mean by “physical shift?” It could be a tremor in your body; it could be goosebumps; it could be that it makes you cry. It doesn’t matter. But if you ask yourself why a few times, you should be able to find a reason that has a physical effect on you. If you don’t, then chances are that you’re going to give up before you reach your goal.

Once you know your “why,” that’s when you can start implementing tactics to attain your goals or change your habits.

Write it down

If you try to keep all of your goals in your head, eventually it becomes too much, and you just put them aside. Or you forget about them because it takes too much effort to remember them at all times.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Instead, use good old pen and paper. A keyboard can also do the trick, but research has shown that when we write using our hands, it has more impact on us than when we use a keyboard or some other sort of implement.

Write your goals down and put them somewhere where you’ll see them.

For example, I have my monthly goals tacked to the door in front of me, so whenever I get up or whenever I look up from my desk, I see the goals, and it reminds me that I need to work on them.

You can’t see your goals too much. I remember that in a seminar I attended, the trainer had suggested that we put our goals over our bed. When we woke up and looked at the ceiling, the first thing we would see were the goals.

Keep a log of everything you accomplish or everything you do as you work toward your goals. It allows you to see how far you were when you started compared to where you are today.

In the midst of our hectic lives, we sometimes forget to take a look back to see where we started from and berate ourselves instead. So take the time to write a list of what you accomplished toward your goal. Do it every day, or at least every week.

Use a single word to determine your theme for the year

I got this tip from a community of writers. It’s a yearly ritual they have: every first of January, they pick a word that defines the rest of their year.

They put on a Post-It all over the place, so they see it all the time. It serves to get back on track when things are going awry. I’m putting that into practice this year.

I don’t know if it works, but some, here, do. and I have no reason to think it doesn’t.

Choosing a “Word of the Year” Is Not as Lame as It Sounds

I took some time to think about what my theme for the year should be. My first choice was “discipline.” But I realized it wasn’t exactly what I was looking to achieve. Discipline would come after, once I knew where I wanted to go.

Then I thought it was “focus.” But even though it’s closer to what I’m looking for, it still wasn’t it.

I moved on to “simplify,” and I was sure I’d found it. Then, I went back to the three questions: Why? Why? Why? And I realized that “simplify” wasn’t sufficient either.

It took me some time to identify my word of the year, and I finally did.

But that’ll be part of another article…

Commit to someone other than yourself

Last year, when I decided that I wanted to change careers to be a writer, I committed to two people: a good friend and a business coach. So now, I have two people in my life who ask me regularly where I am with my goals, what I’ve accomplished, and they also take time to see how I’m feeling personally about what I’m doing.

The beauty of committing to others is that you can only admit so often that you haven’t done what you promised before you feel like a fool. Then, to avoid shame, you actually do the work.

I chose these two people because neither of them has any vested interest in my results. They don’t really care about my excuses, but they will keep me honest in a respectful and loving manner. (That said, I have knocked heads with my coach more than once…)

When you choose to commit to someone, pick someone who respects you, that you respect, and who can be tough yet encouraging.

Don’t ask your grandma! To her, you’ll always be the best, and she will always give you a pass. It’s not what you’re looking for.

You are looking for someone who will ask, “So, what did you do last week?” And if you dillydally, or if you mumble excuses, they’ll keep you honest and tell you to get back on that horse and keep working toward your goals.

You may hate those people at times, but when you reach that goal, you’ll be happy you listened to them.

Learn how to set goals

When I became an adult, I realized that I had a big problem: every successful person kept saying to set goals, but I didn’t know how to do it. Eventually, I took some courses, read a few books, and settled on an approach which — even though it may seem trite — is beautiful in its simplicity: it is the SMART goal.

Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

The acronym SMART stands for:

  • Specific: the more specific your goal, the easier it will be to reach it. If your goal isn’t specific enough, you’ll never know exactly what you’re working toward. “I want to move more” is a fine wish, but “I want to do 20 minutes of strenuous activity five times a week” is much better.
  • Measurable: the only way to determine whether you are reaching your goal is to measure your progress. So saying, “I want to lose weight” is not enough. If you lose 0.1 pounds, you lost weight! “I want to lose 15 pounds,” gives you a specific and measurable goal. Every week, every two weeks, you can step on a scale and determine whether you’re getting closer to your goal or not.
  • Achievable: one of the reasons people give up on their goals is because they are not achievable. It’s great to say that you want to break the world record for the 100-meter dash. However, if you’ve never trained in your life, you don’t have a coach, you don’t know the techniques, and you are 50 years old, there’s no way you’re going to do that. Common thinking is that if the goal is out of reach, you’ll put more effort into reaching it. That’s not how it works. If the goal is too far out of reach, you’ll soon realize that you can’t reach it, and you’ll give up — plan for something that’s achievable.
  • Realistic: “I want to make $1 million per year” is an achievable goal. However, “I want to make $1 million per year before the end of the year” when you’ve never made more than $25,000 is not realistic. Can it be done? Sure, other people have done it. However, if you set a goal that is not realistic in your current conditions, once again, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Remember that you’re looking to become a better person and to improve your circumstances by the end of the year. By setting unrealistic goals, you are sabotaging your success.
  • Time-bound: Give yourself a deadline to reach your goal. Otherwise, you will waste time and effort. By giving yourself a deadline — for example, by the end of this year — you can create a plan to meet that goal.

Create a plan

Once you have decided on the goal you want to reach, it’s time to figure out how you will get there.

Photo by Felipe Furtado on Unsplash

The best way to do that is to break down your goal. Since you are planning for a year, start backward: How will things look for you at the end of this year?

Knowing what the endgame is, work backward to figure out what you must do to meet these goals by the end of the year. One approach is to break it down by quarter, by months, by week, and by day.

For each quarter this year, figure out where you need to be to reach your goal.

Let’s say you currently make $50,000 a year, and your goal is to make $100,000 a year by the end of the year. You could decide that in each quarter, you should have added $12,500 to your yearly income. You could also decide that it’s going to be harder to do that at the beginning of the year. Then, you may want to add $5,000 in the first quarter, $10,000 in the second, $15,000 in the third, and $20,000 in the last quarter of the year.

How you break it down is not that important, as long as for each quarter, you’re still able to apply the SMART approach that I outlined earlier.

First, determine your quarterly goals, then figure out what to do for each month in the quarter.

Once you know what to do each month, break it down by week and then by day. Ideally, you want to end up with 3 to 5 activities every day that bring you closer to your expected result at the end of the month.

Plan those activities every day of the week, and make sure you don’t end your day before accomplishing your daily tasks. Some days will be more challenging than others. That’s when it’s essential to talk to one of your accountability partners to get some support.

At the end of each quarter, review your results to understand what to adjust in the next quarter.

Make it easy for yourself

Making it easy for yourself doesn’t mean that you give yourself a pass when you don’t feel like putting in the work. It means that you ease the path that allows you to reach your goal.

This is especially important if you’re trying to change a habit. As explained in Hidden Brain, if you want to take up a new habit, you must make it as easy as possible to do so.

Photo by Mats Speicher on Unsplash

When my wife wanted to make the kids eat more fruit, she put fruit in a bowl in the middle of the kitchen, while cookies, chips, and other unhealthy snacks were hidden in the cupboards. It was much harder for the kids to eat the unhealthy snacks than to eat the healthy ones. So in the end, they ate more fruit and vegetables just because it was easier.

It’s the same for us, as adults.

If you want to change a habit, the best way to do it is to make it twofold: make it harder to maintain the bad habit and easier to pick up the good habit.

Eventually, it becomes easier to maintain the new habit than to keep up the old habit. That’s when permanent change can occur.


Everyone wants this year to be better than last year. Working toward a rewarding goal is one way to do that.

I wish you success.

May this be the best year of your life!

This post was previously published on Medium.


If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member today.

Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.

Photo credit: michael schaffler on Unsplash