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I Resolve To . . .

Studies show that New Year’s resolutions do indeed help us make big life changes.

However, for them to have effective impact, we have to be prepared and design them well; but therein lies the problem. A few minutes of attempting to sift through all the self-help suggestions and contradicting how-to articles, one would be tempted to give up before the ball even drops! Ha!

So. here is a list of some of the best advice I could possibly come up with to make resolutions.

After all, there isn’t one right way or singular rule for making resolutions succeed . . . except that you have to WORK HARD and you have to start somewhere.

That brings us to the very beginning: The significance of New Year’s as a start date for a behavior change. It is a commonly accepted myth that January first is the perfect starting point for a resolution. For the most part, this is bull-crappie-doo-doo.

Yet, for some people, it does work out to begin on January first.

If January first feels like a great starting point for you and you’re truly prepared to start on that particular day, then by all means do it. But, I say, why wait until January first to treat yourself to changes that make you happier and healthier in the long run?

Why not July 22nd or September 14th? If you are someone who takes pleasure in celebrating significant dates and anniversaries, consider starting your resolution on a day that’s important to you and has a permanent positive association — like the day you got accepted into college or the day you were born or the day you were married or the day you met your soulmate.

One of the biggest problems with starting a resolution on January first is that most of us don’t prepare properly ahead of that day and so by Valentine's day, it's fallen apart.

Well, at the very publishing of this particular blog-post, we're very close to January first. So, here are some strategies for preparing for your next successful resolution:

  1. Weeds die when best pulled from the root. Would you like to stop a bad habit once and for all? It is essential that you understand the root cause of the behavior. If you don’t address the psychological attachment to the problem, any behavior changes will be short lived because the psychological need will still be there waiting to be fulfilled. Pull the problem by the roots and fill the hole with a healthier alternative.

  2. Commit; But Only After Being Well-Prepared. This part is tricky because you don’t want to get stuck in preparation mode and procrastinate on starting your resolution. Yet when you have the information, resources, tools, plans, backup plans, and support systems in place you’ll be better equipped to handle challenges that arise along the way. Make a plan that gives yourself time to prepare, yet also challenges you to have your preparations completed by a meaningful start date.

  3. Visualize Success As Well As Failure. Do you see yourself sticking to your new habit or will it probably taper off after a few weeks? Visualize how this could potentially play out so that you can make contingency plans in advance. How about scheduling a resolution re-commitment ceremony in your calendar 3 weeks from your start date? Now, THAT'S a cool idea.

  4. The Snowball Effect. It helps immensely when we can see the fruits of our labors early on. So start off with smaller and more manageable goals, rather than overwhelming yourself with huge commitments. For example, start by making a goal that you can achieve within the next two or three weeks. By resolving to reach smaller goals, you’ll sooner see successes. Experiencing successes keeps you motivated to add more goals . . . resulting in more successes. Kno'what'I'mean?

  5. Is Your Resolution SMART? SMART is an acronym for Specific-Measurable-Attainable-Relevant-Time Bound. Your resolution goals should certainly be SMART. It’s not very effective to say, “I want to lose weight this year so I’ll start going to the gym more.” Try writing your first weight loss target in your wellness journal or calendar: “My goal is to lose 4 pounds by February 1, which breaks down to one pound a week. Starting today I am going to the gym every Monday and Thursday after work at 6:00pm sharp. Right now, I am going to put my gym bag in the trunk of my car.” When Thursday arrives, this specific plan is already in place, the preparations have been made, and the routine has been automated.

Now, enlist a workout buddy to hold you accountable and you’re well on your way.

John Norcross

"Realizing your goal, resolution, or transformation is a journey. Change, like any meaningful endeavor, proceeds sequentially through steps. The journey begins with the contemplation stage of specifying realistic goals, getting ready, or getting psyched. The planning stage is all about prepping. How exactly will I do this thing? At some point you will jump from preparing and planning to perspiring, the work of implementing the new, desired behavior. Getting there is wonderful, but we need to keep you there, which entails persevering through slips and, finally, persisting over time." - John Norcross

John C. Norcross, Ph.D., ABPP, is distinguished professor of psychology and a board-certified clinical psychologist in part-time practice. He is also an internationally recognized authority on behavior change and psychotherapy. Author of more than 400 scholarly publications, Dr. Norcross has co-written or edited 20 books, most of them in multiple editions. He has also published two self-help books: “Changeology” and “Changing for Good” (with Prochaska and DiClemente). His work has been featured in hundreds of media interviews, and he has appeared multiple times on national television shows, such as the Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, and Good Morning America.


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