5 Steps to Setting and Keeping New Year's Resolutions

By: Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II

Fall is in the air which means one thing: winter is knocking on the door. And with winter comes holidays, and with the holiday season brings the infamous New Year's resolutions. Most of us approach the holidays with a great deal of excitement and anticipation of having time off work, spending time with family, or going on a vacation.

One thing is for certain - you either balk at setting a New Year's resolution or you celebrate the beginning of a New Year so you can turn over a new leaf that perhaps blew away from you earlier this year.

Cyclist on CycleOps indoor trainer

The question that is really on your mind is if you should set another resolution. Were you successful at the one you set this year? Did you get in over your head with too much ambition and not enough execution? Perhaps you simply didn't understand the commitment to your resolution.

No matter, this article will provide great tips to not only help you set a New Year's resolution, but to also be successful at attaining it.

Before I get too far into the article, it is probably a good idea to provide the definition of a resolution. In very basic terms, a resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. This seems fairly straight-forward but what the definition does not account for is the actual behavior change that is involved with deciding to do something or not.

Cyclist on CycleOps indoor trainer
Photo credit: @livtotrain

Am I Ready?

Before taking on the challenge of setting a resolution and moving toward keeping your promise, it is first important to ask yourself if you are truly ready to make a change.

According to Statistic Brain Research Institute, 45% of Americans usually make New Year's resolutions. Of those, only 8% are actually successful.

So what gives? Is it lack of willpower? Inability to set realistic resolutions? I believe it has more to do with your stage of readiness. How ready you are to engage in a behavior change is predictive of your success. Let me give an example of this.

Sarah sets her New Year's resolution of riding four times per week for three months starting in the New Year. Great resolution! Sarah jumps right to scheduling this in her calendar and she thinks she is ready to go. Nothing else is needed. What Sarah did not do was assess if she is ready to actually ride four times per week (behavior change). Put another way, did Sarah have a heart to heart with herself, look straight in the mirror and ask if this resolution could fit in her life right now (execution)?

This is exactly what I am referring to. You may have the best intentions, but if your lifestyle simply does not provide the opportunity for you to make this change, you will not succeed. This is one of the reasons why the success rate is so low.

What Should I Do?

If we look at Sarah again and implement the readiness to change philosophy, Sarah would first assess her ability to be able to ride four times per week as the New Year begins.

Does she have any travel for work? Is it a busy time for her line of work? Will she have family staying with her over the holidays and continuing into the New Year? Does she live where it is cold which would affect her ability to ride outside and thus, she would need an indoor exercise facility or a bike trainer? Does she have a good support network?

You can see where I am going with this. Setting a resolution is a bit more complex than many believe.

Cyclist on CycleOps indoor trainer

Here are the steps to follow as you set your New Year's resolutions:

Step 1: Plan Time for Your Goal

Determine if your work schedule and responsibilities will allow you to plan time for yourself and your resolution.

Step 2: Check In With Your Support System

Determine if your significant other or other family members will provide positive support to you as needed throughout your resolution time frame.

Step 3: Prepare Resources

Determine if you have the physical resources to accomplish your goal. These could include a fitness/performance center membership, proper equipment such as an indoor bicycle trainer, and a workout partner if you don't like to ride alone.

Step 4: Set Smaller Progress Goals Within Resolution

This is a big one. If we revisit Sarah who wants to ride four times per week, she would set smaller markers of success to help her on her three month journey.

For example, she could block out 30 minutes, 4 times per week for the first few weeks then progress to 45 minutes, and finally 60 minutes per workout in the third month. By partitioning a big resolution goal into smaller process goals, Sarah will be much more successful because the resolution goal does not look so immense.

Step 5: Celebrate Your Successes

I believe one of the reasons many people do not succeed in their New Year's resolution is because they set a goal that may be so far in the future, they have no checks and balances that allow them to celebrate their successes along the way.

Let's again revisit Sarah. To support her end goal, she should set-up a frequent reward system that provides positive affirmation for achieving her smaller, process goals. She could purchase a new cycling kit, helmet, computer, or sunglasses at the end of each month that she succeeds to provide her a continued reward system that will help keep her motivation high.

Following these five steps will not guarantee you success in attaining your New Year's resolution, but it will certainly prepare you better as you progress through the process. A little time spent in the planning and preparation steps will yield tremendous dividends as you engage in your New Year's resolution journey.

Remember to enjoy the ride... pun intended!


Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II

Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II, is the owner of eNRG Performance.

He specializes in behavior change and works with athletes of all ages, abilities, and sport to help them with their nutrition and training related goals. Contact him at bob@enrgperformance.com or visit www.enrgperformance.com for more information.