First Light Healthcare


By Tracey Hordern

The New Year for many of us is not only a time to celebrate, but a time to reflect back at where we are in life, compared to where we would like to see ourselves.  In our culture, the collective thinking tends to assume that a new calendar year could be the perfect time to wipe the slate clean while at the same time, introducing new, healthy habits and goals.

But the real challenge for most of us when it comes to New Year resolutions is maintaining our enthusiasm for our goals over a period of time. According to the over-achiever’s bible, Forbes Magazine, a whopping 80 per cent of us fail when it comes to achieving our New Year’s resolutions.* While this statistic is bleak, there are definitely some winning strategies that can help improve your odds.


If you’re wanting to set yourself some New Year’s resolutions, a good place to start is to reflect on the year that was. What did you achieve that you are proud of in the last year? Where did you feel that you let yourself down? Write these answers down and consider what jumps out to you as a potential priority. 

Reflecting on your year and writing down both your successes and failures is not an exercise to beat yourself up. All of us will have achieved some things over the last year, just as all of us will see some areas of our life that we are less than pleased with. In fact, you may be surprised when considering your New Year resolutions, just how many goals are shared by people all over the world.

The Top 10  New Year’s Resolutions***

  1. Exercise more
  2. Lose weight
  3. Get more organised
  4. Learn a new skill or hobby 
  5. Live life to the fullest
  6. Save more money / spend less money
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Spend more time with family and friends
  9. Travel more
  10. Read more


In psychology circles, there is a well-known strategy that has been proven to help you to achieve your new year resolutions, and that is the SMART approach to setting goals.

The factors that make up SMART goals include:

Specific – choose exactly what it is you want to achieve, be specific and clear.

Measurable – choose goals that have measurable indicators of progress.

Achievable – choose goals based on your available and realistic resources and constraints.

Relevant – choose relevant goals that are based on what you personally value.

Time-bound – aim to achieve your goals by a specific date and record that date.


The following strategies listed below are based on the SMART goals approach as outlined above, but they offer more detail, examples and other practical tips to help sustain you as you work towards achieving your New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Match your New Year resolutions with your personal values

There’s little chance of success if your New Year resolutions don’t match your core values. Conversely, if you base your goals on your personally held beliefs, you have a much greater chance in sustaining your focus and efforts. For instance, if you are an animal lover, it will possibly be that much easier for you if your goal is to become a vegetarian.

  • Try to set “new” New Year resolutions

Rather than recycling old goals, try to be more specific and different in your approach to achieving your New Year resolutions. For instance, if exercise and fitness is a goal of yours, choose a different exercise routine than you have in the previous years.

  • Ensure your New Year’s resolutions are specific

Specific plans make it easier to stick to our goals. Choose to add specific elements such as time, place and people to your goals. For instance, if exercising more is your goal, choose a strategy such as walking for 45 minutes five mornings of the week, and then add a willing partner to share the routine and goal with. This strategy also adds the really helpful addition of accountability to your goal-setting.

  • Visualise mentally your desired outcome

As almost all personal trainers and psychologists would tell you – that visualising your goal being successfully achieved will help you to keep focused. Visualising is a powerful psychological tool, but it also needs to be followed up with action!

      5. Reward yourself for achieving small goals
Taking stock along the way to achieving your goal, and then rewarding yourself for small gains, not only makes working towards your goal pleasurable, it can also really help to motivate you. We all love a treat and a sense of achievement, no matter how small.

  • Choose goals based on your desires, not goals that you think you should pursue

Research consistently shows that goals that are externally driven, such as those set by other people for you, are far less likely to be achieved. On the other hand, goals that are genuinely felt and freely chosen, will enhance your sense of well-being and increase your likelihood of success.**

  • Be flexible with your strategies to achieve your goal

Sometimes our goals and strategies need reviewing and tweaking. It’s important to feel that you can change your strategy, or even change your desired goal if isn’t working for you as expected. For instance, you may have chosen to walk a set amount of times per week. If constant rainy weather dictates that walking is not suitable, be flexible enough to choose a less weather-dependent, substitute form of exercise.

  • Choose realistic goals

There’s no point choosing an unrealistic goal that sets you up to fail. Choose a New Year’s resolution that is realistically achievable and safe. If for instance you have chosen a weight loss goal, you may want to run your weight loss goal past your doctor, or another medically qualified person. By choosing to share your goal with another person, you are also adding the helpful addition of accountability to your goal setting.

  • Learn from any past failures

We all have some failures in our past, especially when it comes to previous New Year resolutions. But these so-called failures are a great opportunity to learn. For instance – did you fail previously because your chosen goal was unrealistic? Instead of engaging in unhelpful self-criticism when analysing your past failures, use the information to help you do better this time.

  1. If you fall off the horse, quickly get back on

This is probably the greatest hinderance for most of us when it comes to achieving our goals; “Oh well, I ate that piece of cake / missed my personal training appointment / smoked that cigarette, so I may as well give up.” No! Missing a gym appointment, having one cigarette is not the end of your goal, it’s the time to re-commit. This all-or-nothing thinking is rarely, if ever helpful. Interestingly, we tend to apply that type of unhelpful thinking to ourselves, far more often than we do towards others. A moment of weakness means little in the grand scheme of things and it is simply a reminder of just how human we all are. It’s the attitude of getting back up on the horse that is the basis of almost all successes in life. Own your mistakes, learn from them – and keep moving forward into the new year!


*Forbes Magazine

**US National Library of Medicine

*** Go Skills