How to Set New Year Resolutions and Stick With It

***Updated on 31 March, 2021

How to set New Year resolution? Spend less time on intentions and more time creating systems.

In the past, this time of the year had an almost magical quality. The promise of starting fresh, setting shiny new intentions, and the lure of the lofty ‘News Years goal’ setting process would get me every year. 

The year would always start the same, the newness and excitement of the change meant I had loads of excitement and commitment.

After a couple of months, my energy and enthusiasm would start to wane, commitments would drop away, then towards the end of the year I might pick up my old notebook again, and re-read it “oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what I said I would do this year!” 

Sound familiar!?

I’d just like to share with you, one small idea that I have found really helpful when it comes to how to set New Year resolution and sticking to personal intentions.

Just for the record I know there is loads of excellent research-backed advice and information out there on how to make and stick to personal goals whether it’s changing jobs, getting a six-pack, eating better, running a marathon, being more mindful, and so on.

This is just one more idea to add to your idea toolkit.

Spend less time on setting resolutions and more time creating systems

The problem I had was I spent so much time crafting resolutions and no time putting in place systems that would generate results. Probably because that was much much less fun. 

Systems are small groups of habits that if repeated over and over again, lead to change. As James Clear rightly pointed out in Atomic Habits: 

‘We do not rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems!’

For example, a resolution might be to become more mindful. Perhaps you start by finding a programme, app or teacher you can learn from.

Then one system might be to book a chunk of time into your daily routine where you can meditate regularly for a few weeks, stick to the plan, recording down daily your time meditating and what you are learning about being mindful.

Over time the system starts to take care of the goal. The goals set the direction, the system gets you progress.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not as simple as setting a system and sticking to it.

Life gets in the way, plans change, family commitments crop up, a big work project consumes your time, or some days it can all feel too hard and exhausting. It can be a real minefield. Especially when it comes to how we judge ourselves.

Failed New Year’s resolutions can set up cycles of self-criticism

For many of us, failing to stick to a resolution carries with it a barrage of self-criticism, the unachieved goal becomes just one more thing to add to the list of failures, one more thing to berate yourself about, another reason to believe you are useless at making change.

This kind of nasty self-criticism can be toxic, erode confidence, and ultimately undermine our good intentions.

If I feel like I am not making progress in an area of personal change, I see it as a systems failure, not a personal failure, and look at what I can tweak. This is a big shift.

So if there is a change you wish to make this year, what are the systems of small habits that you can undertake most days that will slowly get you heading down the right path?

If you are doing something every day, the end game will ultimately take care of itself.

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