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New Year, New Who? How to make and keep resolutions you can actually reach.

It’s a brand new year, and you’re ready to start out on a new goal. What’s your new year’s resolution?

It’s no secret that many people set unrealistic goals for the new year. Let’s talk about what a reasonable goal looks like, and then we’ll discuss ways to succeed at those goals.

Don’t forget to download the worksheet that will help you keep track of your goals!


One way to determine a realistic goal is to design a SMART goal. SMART stands for

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

A better goal might be “I want to lose 2 lbs every month next year.”

It’s specific, you know exactly what to expect. It’s measurable by using a scale. It’s achievable and relevant if, perhaps, you want to fit an outfit or make a change that might make you healthier. It’s time-bound because you know exactly what you need to do and how long you have to do it. 

If you were to rephrase your goal as a SMART goal, what would it be?

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Step-wise goals

Another great way to achieve a goal is to break it up into smaller parts. These smaller goals are much more achievable and give you a sense of accomplishment. Get them done, and surprise, you’ve reached your New Year’s resolution!

One of my goals for 2019 was to do more science communication. This is a vague goal. To make it more concrete, I set a measurable New Year’s resolution: I want to do (5) animations and (5) illustrations that communicate science, create 1 online course and give 1 workshop to teach science communication, and write 5 blog posts.

I’ve broken this into smaller goals, to be completed by the end of specific months:

  • March: Launch an online course
  • April: write 1 blog post and create 1 infographic
  • May: complete 1 animated video
  • June: write 1 blog post and create 1 infographic
  • July: complete 1 animated video
  • August: write 1 blog post, create 1 infographic, and complete 1 animated video
  • October: write 1 blog post, create 1 infographic, and complete 1 animated video
  • November: teach a 1 workshop
  • December: write 1 blog post, create 1 infographic, and complete 1 animated video

This takes that big goal (which seems very daunting!!!) and turns it into a timeline. I tried not to give myself too much to do in the first few months. Then I used these months to prepare for everything coming up: brainstorming, planning, beta testing, networking, etc.

This year was the 3rd year I used this approach. I usually choose 3 major goals to achieve over the course of the year and break them down. After I have this list, I break down these smaller goals into even smaller pieces.

Then I set weekly task lists to meet the monthly goals. I choose to be flexible about this. I might have a bad day, a bad week, a family emergency, or some other problem that keeps progress from occurring. Keeping yourself accountable means being flexible while pushing yourself.

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How to get started with your New Year’s Resolution

I always start by asking myself

” Is this goal something I can achieve in the allotted time, given all my other responsibilities? “

For many years, I set unreasonable New Year’s resolutions for myself. I would get down on myself for not meeting these goals, and thought I was failing.

The truth is, I lacked a good understanding of what I was capable of. I wasn’t a failure. I just was making goals that were impossible given everything else going on in my life.

Here are some questions I ask myself as I set my goals.

  • What other projects/responsibilities do I have?
  • Are there obstacles that may prevent me from completing my goal?
  • How can I overcome those obstacles?

Need a way to keep track? Try out this goal sheet, which you can post where you’ll see it and check off things as they get done!

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How to Reach Your Goals

So you’ve got your goal laid out. Now what? Now you want to work toward and succeed at your goal, right?

Of course, in order to succeed at any goal, you have to be persistent. But what more can you do?

It’s probably obvious that I believe that having a clear and reasonable goal is a big first step. But a good plan isn’t the only thing that can help you succeed.

Accountability can be your best friend….or rather, a best friend could be useful to stay accountable to your goals. Share your plan with a family member, friend, or coworker. Ask for them to give you gentle reminders. Show them your progress regularly.

Put up your goal sheet (above) where you’ll see it every day. Check off each task that you get done. Create a reward system to celebrate completing a mini-goal.

In other words, set yourself up for success. A support system is the best way to make sure that you will meet your goals.

What resolutions have you made for 2019? How will you break that down into smaller mini-goals? Who will be your best support team? Tell me more about your strategies in the comments below.

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