New Year's Resolutions - Part 2 of 2: How to Keep Your Resolutions

Now that you have started your new year’s resolution, here are some tips that can help you to keep your resolution. 

Share Your Resolution and Enlist Support

We are more likely to keep a goal if we tell other people that we are going to meet it. In fact, making your resolution public is the number one predictor of whether you keep it.  Only engage people who are positive and supportive. Be positive in your presentation and convey how they can support you. Consider finding “a buddy” who wants support to keep their resolution and keep each other informed on an at least weekly basis.  

The following is an example of an e-mail someone might send:

Dear Bob, Jill, Grace, and Nick,

I have made a resolution to workout at least 3X/week for at least 30 minutes, although I really want to do better than that.  I plan to let you know every Sunday how many days I have worked out that week, as well as the total number of minutes I worked out.  You can support me by e-mailing me back when I contact you.  If you think of it, it will also be helpful if you ask me how it’s going during the week or even cheer me on.  Also, if you’d like to go for a hike, a bike ride, or play tennis, please call me and be a part of my goal. 

Let me know too if I can be of assistance in supporting your resolution! 

Thanks so much and Happy New Year,


Another Example:

To my smoker friends,

My New Year’s Resolution is to never smoke again.  If I have a weak moment and ask for a cigarette, deny me even if I beg, plead, or offer my firstborn.  Remind me that I want to be alive to meet my grandkids, enjoy a healthy retirement, and of all the cash I’m saving by quitting.  Again, no matter what I say or do – do NOT give me a cigarette.  

I hear the first 3 months are the hardest, so I’m not going to go to bars for 3 months.  Hope you will continue to do some non-bar things with me!




Studies show that we are much more likely to meet goals if we monitor them. This helps to hold you accountable and each time you meet the goal and write it out it can be reinforcing.  I suggest something very simple, like writing in your calendar YES or NO or the number of minutes.  If you make the monitoring too complex, it may make your resolution harder to keep.  

Money Talks

We are more than three times more likely to keep a resolution if money is on the line.  The best way to do this is to find one or more friends who are looking to make a resolution and agree to put money into it.  You could pay each other for each slip or make it competitive such that the winner takes each monthly contribution.  Alternatively, put money into a fund and if someone fails they lose their money to those who keep the resolution.  If everyone sticks to it, agree to spend the money together doing something fun or rewarding together.  This could be at the end of the year, the end of the quarter, or even the end of each month.  

If you can’t find a friend who will do this, try  You pay them only when you mess up your goal and the proceeds go to a charity of your choice.  Add motivation by choosing an “anti-charity,” i.e. a charity that you are against.  A compromise is to choose a charity that is somewhat neutral. helps you to keep your resolution in other ways too.  

The Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE)

AVE is when you make a slip and then completely abandon a goal due to your negative mind-set.  So for instance, you quit smoking having puffed your last fag at 11:59 on New Year’s Eve and manage to keep from smoking until February 10th.  On that date, you have a stressful week and go have a couple drinks with a friend who smokes.  He smokes the same brand, your defenses are down, and with that chemical reaction from the alcohol you crave it all the more, so you smoke.  As you take those last couple drags you think, “I’ve blown it. I’m a failure and I’m doomed to smoke for the rest of my life” and you immediately go back to your pack a day plus habit.  

To avoid falling prey to the AVE, distinguish between a lapse and a relapse.  A lapse is a slip and should be considered temporary and human.  A relapse is more than a slip.  It’s a fall because it is followed by a decision to go back to your old habits, abandoning hope to succeed at your goal. Remember that a lapse does not need to become a relapse.  

If you have sworn to only eat sweets on the weekends and you eat a brownie on a Tuesday night, don’t eat 2 more and give up the goal.  Tell yourself something like this: “I’ve done really well up until this point and I’m going to continue to do well from here on out.  I’m human and had a temporary lapse.  I’m not going to relapse.”

Tweak Your Goal if Needed

If you decide that you can’t or don’t want to meet your resolution because it’s just too difficult, rather than abandoning the goal, change it.  So, for instance, let’s say that you decide you are going to keep to a budget of$300/month for everything except your necessities.  Then in the last week of the first month you feel you have been pretty good, but have to pass up social plans or a good buy on some shoes and you start to feel frustrated and deprived.  Rather than giving up the idea of a budget, loosen it.  Maybe $100/week is more reasonable.  (Tweaking a goal is not typically recommended for addictions.)

Want vs. Need

We are more motivated to do something that we “want to do” than we are to do something we feel we “need to do.”  So rather than telling yourself that you need to lose weight or you need to go to the gym, think “I want to be thinner” or “I want to get into good shape and I want to feel that sense of well-being after a good workout.”

Best of Luck with your New Year’s Resolutions and have a Very Happy New Year!

Jennifer L. Abel, Ph.D.

author of "Active Relaxation: How to Increase Productivity and Achieve Balance by Decreasing Stress and Anxiety"