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The Psychology behind New Year's Resolutions and Tips to Stick to Them.

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

We all have moments in our lives where we “wake up” and decide that things are going to be different moving forward... like a new start or hitting the refresh button. A wake-up call could be anything from a birthday to facing some kind of crisis – like a health scare or a break up, or starting a new job. The most obvious one is the new year.

Technically speaking, time is a construct and there isn’t really anything different about these “special” days compared to other days of the year. But psychologically, it feels special... like a fresh start – like the first page of a new notebook. This is because we draw temporal boundaries in our minds. We chunk together different times of our lives.

For example – school days, or moving to a new place, or meeting your partner, or starting a job etc. When a “fresh start” rolls around, we feel inspired and motivated to change and become better. We think of goals we’d like to achieve and have all these ideas how things will work out. That’s why it feels like you need to wait for a New Year to make a resolution.

Now that you know this, let’s get back to our resolutions today and not simply wait around for 2022! If this might be too hard and you still feel like you need that new feeling to restart those resolutions, then pick the nearest ‘new’ you can handle – maybe the next o-clock, or the next day, or the next Monday.


It’s perfectly normal to have fallen off the wagon with your resolutions. That only makes you human. Failing doesn’t mean quitting. Failing means that you tried and it didn’t work out. Whereas quitting means that you’re not going to try anymore. Failing at your resolutions is better than quitting them, don’t you think? Now let's look at some ways to stick to your resolutions.

1. Revisit and revise your resolutions

Failing at something need not be evidence for incompetence but rather an opportunity to revise the process. Just because you weren’t able to stick to your resolution doesn’t make you bad at it. It only means that the one specific way that you tried to make these changes did not work out for you. So, reflect on what part of it you struggled with and see if there’s another way to reach your goal, one that is easier for you or more compatible to you.

2. Make your resolutions specific and measurable

Make your resolutions specific. It’s hard to reach vague and abstract goals like ‘I want to be healthy’ or ‘I want to be happy’. They are a great place to start but there’s no proper way to keep a track of them. But if you break them down into specific and measurable steps, you’ll know exactly how well you are doing. For example, if your goal is to be healthier, what does it mean to be healthy for you? Maybe it could mean a healthy diet and getting some exercise. So, your specific and measurable step can be something like eating one healthy meal every day and getting 10 minutes of exercise every day. Tracking these behaviours daily will show you exactly how well you are sticking to your resolution.

3. Mark your milestones

While breaking the resolutions down into steps, you can also keep in mind to highlight what would be a milestone for you. For example, waking up at 6 am every single day of the week could be a milestone or exercising for 150 minutes in a week could be a milestone. Whatever would feel like an achievement for you should be your milestone. Note down what your milestones are and celebrate when you achieve them. It’s great if your goal is to go from A to Z but make sure you treat yourself when you get to B. Milestones will be those moments that you can stop to see how far you’ve come and feel good about it and be proud of yourself.

4. Reflect on your progress

Apart from this, set a particular time frame during which you can sit down and reflect on how things are going. It can be a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly time frame – whatever works best for you. If you’re doing weekly reflections, for example, choose a day of the week to reflect on your progress. Note down obstacles you faced while committing to your resolutions in the past week. Brainstorm possible solutions and try to implement these solutions in the upcoming week. Next week, do the same thing. In this process you’ll be learning so much about yourself that these learnings could positively impact other aspects of your life as well. Doing this will help you fail better. You cannot expect different results by doing the same things over and over.

5. Hook your resolution to an existing daily routine to serve as a reminder

A simple way to get started with your resolution is to associate it with an existing routine. There must be something that you do daily without fail like brushing your teeth when you wake up. Decide on integrating your resolution right before/after one such existing daily routine. This works as an automatic reminder for you and you don’t need to be worried about missing days because you forgot about it.

6. Set yourself up to succeed

Another way to ensure that you stick to your resolution is to make sure that you set yourself up for a win. How do you do that? Figure out what will make it easier for you to practice your resolution and do that. If it’s about exercise, lay your work clothes out on the bed or within your viewing range. If it’s about eating healthy, stock your pantry with healthy foods and get rid of any junk food that could tempt you. If the first thing you want to do in the day is to hit the gym, you can even consider sleeping in your gym clothes so that all you need to when you wake up is freshen up and head straight to the gym. Think of what might make you lazy and not want to do it when you have to do it and then be the best friend to your lazy version and help them out!

7. Get inspired

It really helps to shake off the laziness when you are inspired and pumped up. Identify what inspires you and make a collection of it. It could be anything – movie clips, memes, TedTalks, an inspirational video, a playlist, background music that makes you feel like you’re the villain, a quote, a mantra, a speech – whatever moves you and fills you up so much that you want to do something about it. It could even be something as simple as reminding yourself why you are doing this.


We lead most of our lives as we feel. “I don’t feel like it today” or “I don’t want to do it right now.” There’s a quote that goes “You won’t always be motivated. You must learn to be disciplined.” Consistency and perseverance are what can set you apart from the rest of the crowd. It's normal to not “feel like it” every single day. The hard days are the days it matters the most for you to show up. Anybody can do something when it’s easy. What makes it special or amazing is when you show up and do something despite it being difficult. Don’t worry about falling down once in a while in the process. All that matters is how you bounce back after a fall.

Tell us about your resolutions and how you plan on committing to them in the comments!

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