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Tips for Writing a Successful New Year’s Resolution

As we begin a new year many of us turn our minds and thoughts to resolutions. We use this time of the year to reflect on the year gone by. Actually, I encourage all of us to spend time reflecting on this past year, as long as your reflections aren’t focused solely on the negatives nor used as a time to chastise yourself.

Mindfulness is about living in the moment. The past no longer exists, but in our minds. Reflecting on the past, when done nonjudgmentally, allows us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves from our past experiences and choices. We can celebrate those moments when life was wonderful. We can examine those moments when life didn’t go well to determine what we can do differently now. We can plan for the future. In this way our past isn’t ignored, it is honored for what it teaches us.

Making New Year’s resolutions is a great way for us to set goals for ourselves based on what we have learned from the past. Making these resolutions allows us the time to live in the moment as we take the time to figure out what it is we resolve to do in the new year. Making these resolutions at the beginning of a new year is definitely timely; new year, new resolutions. But, if you aren’t yet ready to make your list, or to make a commitment to your resolutions, there is no rush. Resolutions don’t need to be made only at the beginning of a new year.

One of the wonderful elements of living in the present moment is that we can start over whenever we need to. If my day is not going as planned and I find myself getting frustrated, I can stop, breathe, and start again. I don’t need to wait until the next morning, or the next year to start over. I can start over any time I feel the need. Therefore, if you find yourself needing more time to work on your resolutions, take the time rather than rushing through a list out of a self-imposed obligation.

Here are my tips for creating successful resolutions:

  • Take the time to reflect on the past year. On a piece of paper (or e-device), make two columns: one for what events went well and why; another column for those events that did not go well and why.
  • Consider what you have learned from living through the events of both columns. What you feel you need to continue to learn, or to work on, is the beginning of your resolutions list.
  • Ensure that any resolution you create for yourself is doable and realistic. Yes, we do need to challenge ourselves, but we don’t want to set ourselves up for failure, either.
  • For each resolution, sketch out a plan of action, and list the resources you will need to accomplish your goal. Make sure that before you start your resolution you have the necessary resources.
  • Give each resolution a due date in order to keep yourself on track. But if you find that you are working the resolution and need more time, be flexible.
  • Be compassionate with yourself. If you are honestly doing your best to accomplish your goal, be compassionate during those times which are the toughest. And remember, you can always start anew whenever it’s necessary.

New Year, new start image available from Shutterstock

Tips for Writing a Successful New Year’s Resolution

Christopher Shea, MA, CRAT, CAC-AD, LCC

Christopher Shea is a certified addiction counselor & life coach who has worked as a clinician, clinical director, and administrator for more than 20 years. He is the founder of Lifesjourney Life Coaching, LLC: and a published author who presents at seminars and conferences across the country. He is currently an adjunct professor at Towson University and the Director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary’s Ryken High School.

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APA Reference
Shea, C. (2018). Tips for Writing a Successful New Year’s Resolution. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 1 Jan 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.