How to Follow Through on New Year’s Resolutions

Peter Hafner |

The new year is the perfect break in the calendar that allows us to take off the old and put on the new. It’s like turning the page. It’s a new chapter. It’s a new book! You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.

One way we can make a change is to set new goals, which we call New Year’s resolutions.

If you are considering financial resolutions, you might include getting debt under control, saving more for retirement, getting a head start on taxes, or reviewing health and life insurance options. It’s an ancient idea.

Did you know that there is evidence that the first resolutions were made by the Babylonians about 4,000 years ago? Julius Caesar reintroduced the practice when he established January 1 as the start of the new year in 46 B.C.E.

New Year’s resolutions are still made these days, but few follow through on them. According to a recent CBS News poll, only 29% of Americans had planned to make New Year’s resolutions this year, down from 43% in 2021. Moreover, Statista reports that only 4% who make resolutions accomplish all they set out to do; 8% meet most of their goals and 16% meet some.

It’s not encouraging.

We make resolutions to accomplish goals, tasks and to improve ourselves. In the financial realm, wouldn’t it feel great to resolve and get debt under control, save more for retirement, get a head start on taxes, or finally review those health and life insurance options?

We get a sense of satisfaction when we “check that box.” So how can we increase our chances of success? Follow-through is critical, and these tips will help you not only set, but attain your goals in the new year.

Set resolutions and achieve your goals

  1. What resolutions are important to you? Set goals that are meaningful and within reach. Many set worthy goals, but they are too lofty or too difficult to accomplish. Traveling the world may be exciting, but it requires massive planning. And, honestly, it’s vague.

    A healthier lifestyle is a good resolution, too. But what does it mean to you? Does it mean working out or losing weight? If it’s working out, then what, when and how often?

    Be specific and get granular. Do you want to start a new hobby? Have you always wanted to paint? Check with local resources in your area and sign up for a class by the end of the month. It’s specific, and you have attached a date to your resolution.

  2. Don’t choose too many resolutions. Choose too many and you’ll likely end up accomplishing little. Instead, pick one or two. Elizabeth Saunders writes in the Harvard Business Review, “Because there aren’t usually instant negative effects, you’ll tend to look at these goals as ‘extras.’ And since most of us don’t have much time or energy for a lot of extras, you’ll increase your likelihood of success by picking just one or two resolutions.” Agreed.
  3. Write down your goals. According to Inc., Psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews, at the Dominican University in California, led a study on goal-setting with nearly 270 participants. The results? You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.

    Writing down your resolutions has a two-fold effect: it forces clarity, and it is motivating.

  4. Implement a plan to achieve your resolutions. For example, let’s take something simple. You want to get your house cleaned by the beginning of spring. You have your resolution, you’ve written it down and you have a date.

    It may seem like a daunting task. But what if you were to schedule one room each day, or two rooms a week. Instead of always focusing on a far-away peak, you are taking one step at a time, and your goal is now manageable.

  5. Recognize small wins. Writing down your small successes allows you to see your progress.
  6. Keep yourself accountable. And, whatever your resolution may be, it helps to have an accountability partner—preferably someone you look up to. Besides, you can encourage each other.
  7. Reward yourself. There will be an inherent sense of satisfaction when you have achieved your New Year’s resolution, but why not give yourself a prize, a reward when you have checked that box? It’s an accomplishment, and you deserve to celebrate it.

You won’t be perfect. At times, life will get in the way. That’s ok. Just keep coming back. You may not accomplish your resolutions right away, but with persistence, you’ll see success.