How to Make (and Keep) New Year’s Resolutions for 2021
Here are four expert tips to follow.
A new year means new resolutions for many. From exercising more to changing career paths, New Year’s resolutions are completely personal—so there’s no right or wrong goals to have. But starting a new year after a very stressful one may have you feeling like the rough patches are here to stay. However, the difficult experiences we've walked through in 2020 can actually help set us up for success in the new year. To help you ring in 2021 with a fresh set of resolutions, we chatted with Takia Richardson, a licensed independent clinical social worker. She gave her best tips for making New Year’s resolutions that'll have you looking forward to the days ahead.
After 2020, you may feel the need to totally reset—and that's OK. Take the time to truly reflect on where you've been and where you want to go before setting any goals. While your reflection process is completely individual (some may find success journaling, while others turn to meditation), checking in with yourself and your needs should be a consistent practice throughout the year, no matter what your resolutions are.
And while thinking of 2020 can be exhausting, Richardson recommends applying the lessons from the previous year to your goals. “I think that 2020 has shown us we need to be a little more adaptable and flexible with ourselves when we’re making these resolutions,” she says. One of the best ways to stick to your goals is to be patient with yourself and focus on the things you can control during these uncertain times.
A great way to reach your resolutions is by setting small micro goals instead of one huge, life-changing resolution. A series of manageable micro goals prevents your overall resolutions from seeming too big or overwhelming to accomplish. “When you have this huge goal without having smaller markers to see that you’re making progress, it is easy to feel like you’re not making progress at all. So, it becomes much easier to let resolutions fall by the wayside,” Richardson says. Set small, manageable goals and celebrate the little victories when you achieve them.
For example, if you set a goal of running a marathon by the end of the year, it may seem like a daunting task. But if you set smaller micro goals to consistently run a few miles each day, you'll have achievable results to check off as you go—and you'll still be prepared to run that marathon.
Writing things down is a great way to manifest what you want to accomplish in the upcoming year. “Sometimes being able to look at it could serve as a nice reminder. It also helps you stay accountable to yourself,” Richardson says. A simple sticky note with an inspiring quote is a quick and helpful way to stay motivated. Find practices that work best for your preferences and the types of goals you’re working towards.
When mapping out the following months, consider options such as an online Google calendar, or a physical planner like a Concept Planner ($38, Poketo) or an Annual Passion Planner ($35, Passion Planner). Some planners may include writing prompts and space for you to journal thoughts. Finding a planner or calendar that is most compatible with your personal style is the best way to help you stay on track.
Working toward your goals shouldn’t be a chore. Keep in mind that a new calendar year doesn’t mean that everything in the past is getting a fresh start too. “I think we’re all still a little bit shocked by all of the unpredictability of 2020. It’s hard to go into a new year saying, ‘These are the things I want to accomplish’ when there’s still so much that’s unknown about what we’ll be able to do,” Richardson says.
Forgive yourself if you struggle or fall off track at any point. “We all see the new year as an opportunity to reset, but if you set this goal and you fall off, you can always just start again. We don’t have to start at the beginning of the year. We don’t have to start a new thing on Sunday or Monday at the beginning of the week. You can start at any time,” Richardson says.
No matter how or when you start your resolutions, be sure to give yourself grace and take time to celebrate your accomplishments along the way.