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New Years Resolutions. Small goals are better than large goals

New Years Resolutions. Small goals are better than large goals

By Intermountain Healthcare

Dec 27, 2019

Updated Jul 13, 2023

5 min read

New years resolutions

Welcome to the New Year! The time when you make outlandish but well-meaning resolutions you’ll break within a week. Tragically, around a third of New Year’s resolutions never make it past the first month. Which makes sense. It’s easy to throw out a few lofty goals for the sake of the New Year. It’s a lot more difficult to follow through with those goals, especially when they are big, scary goals. If your typical pie-in-the-sky New Year’s resolution isn’t cutting it, you might need to rethink your goal setting strategy. Research shows that if you want to be successful at keeping your New Year’s resolutions, you need to think smaller. Let’s discuss your New Year’s resolutions.

Choose small goals

Everyone loves a lofty goal. Lose 100 pounds. Pay off your mortgage. Eat only vegan meals for the rest of your life. But the problem with lofty goals is that they don’t work. They are too big. Imagine making a goal to lose 100 pounds. Staring down that goal is almost too big when you struggle just to give up dessert every night. Instead, think smaller. If your eventual hope is that you will lose 100 pounds, think about how you can break it down into a smaller goal. A good example of a New Year's resolution might be to give up dessert six nights a week, for six weeks. When you take on the smaller, daily goals, the big goals fall into place. In this example, it’s much easier to lose weight if you aren’t indulging in dessert every night.

Make it a SMART goal

Most New Year's resolutions are somewhat vague. “Eating healthy” or “saving money” won’t cut it. You need to get specific. A more specific goal related to saving money might be, “Save $20 a week for 10 weeks”. If the goal is to save $200, you need to break it down into small goals you can accomplish today or this week. Maybe you can’t save $200 this week. But you can probably save $20. Those small efforts build momentum. Ideally, your goals will be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound). Don’t be afraid to get specific. In fact, the more specific you can be, the better. 

Use short timelines

Big goals require big timelines. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to put off a goal that has a far away deadline. On the other hand, a short timeline will push you to accomplish your goal quickly, while you are still motivated. Choosing short timelines can help push you towards your goals. Don’t be afraid to break down a yearly goal into just a few months or even weeks. 

Focus on just a few high priority goals 

When you set New Year's resolutions, you might be tempted to make a long list of goals you’d like to achieve. This can leave you overwhelmed and frustrated. Instead, chose just 2 or 3 high priority goals. You’ll be more likely to work on those goals and achieve them when you aren’t overwhelmed by the sheer number of goals you’ve set. Once you achieve those goals, you can always add more goals to your plate. Setting goals isn’t just for New Year's. 

New Year's is a wonderful time. It’s a time of newness when you can set new goals and commit to change. Knowing how to set goals that will leave you motivated instead of overwhelmed is key to success.