How to Make a Successful New Year’s Resolution


New Year, new me! … Cue eye roll.

It’s that time again when many of our New Year’s resolutions fall to the wayside come February (approximately 80%, in fact).

In spite of this large and quite frankly habitual margin of failure, we still make them.

Why do we make New Year’s resolutions?

For a lot of people, the first day of the year offers a fresh start and resolutions are promises that help us make positive changes in our lives. This is a tradition that’s been practiced for thousands of years.

The first people to make New Year’s resolutions are the ancient Babylonians around 4,000 years ago during the religious festival, Akitu, which typically revolved around a coronation. During the festivities, the Babylonians would crane their necks and make divine promises to “do good,” i.e. pay their debts, curb bad habits, etc. If they kept their word, it was believed that the gods would bestow upon them good fortune and blessings throughout the year.

Jump forward to ancient Rome, a similar diety-rooted tradition came about after the introduction of the Roman calendar. The month of January was named after the literal two-faced god, Janus. His two faces, one facing forward and the other back, symbolized the diety’s ability to see both the future and past. Thus, Romans made promises to change and stuck with them out of fear of Janus’ wrath.

Thousands of years later, no longer driven by fear, we still make resolutions for personal well-being. That being said, without the thought of being smote by a higher power, our New Year’s resolution trends down accordingly.

successful new year resolutions

Choosing the Right Resolution

A fun factoid, see below for the most common resolutions.

  • Eat healthier
  • Get more exercise
  • Save more money
  • Focus on self-care
  • Read more
  • Make new friends
  • Learn a new skill
  • Get a (new) job
  • Take up a new hobby

As great as these all sound, there is a need for us to focus on ourselves holistically and incorporate digital wellness into our resolutions. If you still feel tired after waking up or if you find it difficult to focus and concentrate then you might be experiencing something experts call a digital burnout. Digital burnout — stress and fatigue caused by prolonged use of technology — is a growing problem.

Reducing the time spent on our digital devices is a small (and achievable) New Year’s resolution that comes with a lot of benefits.

How to Accomplish Your New Year’s Resolutions

The odds may not be ever in your favor but accomplishing your New Year’s resolution is still possible.  Follow these simple steps to succeed in the coming year.

Set your goals

People who set goals are more successful due to the endowment effect. When we take ownership of something and thereby integrate it into our sense of identity, we work hard to keep at it.

For example, if your goal is to reduce your smartphone usage, then start small. Pinpoint your focus to first minimize the time that you check the notifications. Do this by keeping a schedule. Start by allowing yourself to check every 20 minutes, then move it to every 40 and gradually increase the time until you feel that you’re no longer compelled to check them. The final step would be to allow yourself “phone only” or “phone free” zones where you can only check them then. (Alternatively, you can just turn off your notifications altogether.)

Make it specific but still attainable

As mentioned above, setting specific goals helps them become more attainable. If your New Year’s resolution is I want to spend less time on my phone then you are setting yourself up for failure. Be more specific than that! A great alternative to that resolution would be I want to stop using my phone when I am about to go to bed or I want to stop checking my emails the first thing in the morning and after I go home from work.

Those specific goals make the resolution less overwhelming.

If you like it then you better put a date on it

Without a specific date, your resolution is teed up for missteps as it risks the chances of being put off. If you want to stop using your phone when you are about to sleep, attach a date to it so your resolution would look like this: I want to completely stop using my phone when I am about to go to bed by March 31st.

Identify the steps you need to take to achieve your goal

“Work every day to become an overnight success,” or so the saying goes. Sometimes, there are certain steps that you need to take before you fully get rid of your bad habits. Our benefits compound and aren’t born in an instant. There are no shortcuts in life. Instead of spending two hours on social media, try to do it in one hour during your first week and then half an hour during the second week until you are only spending a couple of minutes on your phone. The idea here is to take small steps each week to achieve your goal. Commit to one actionable step each week and keep on working to become a better you.

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