How to Actually Keep Your Resolutions This Year (Free Workbook!)

People who set resolutions this year fall into 2 groups.

One group sets the same resolutions every year, and they don’t stick with them. At least, not for long. In fact, they’ve probably already forgotten about them by now.

These resolutions are usually pretty vague:

  • “Lose weight”
  • “Watch less TV”
  • “Pet more cats”
  • “Pet less cats”

They sound nice, and they’re achievable, but they just never get achieved.

The other group contains you. 

This group is determined. They know what their goals are, and there is little they won’t do to reach them. They can visualize what the end result will be like and they are serious about getting there.

Most importantly, they have a roadmap in place that will take them there.

They–you–are the ones who are going to succeed.

I did a little research on the topic of goal setting, and in this post I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned.

(Scroll to the end of the post for your free download!)


Remember why you made your resolutions.

No goal was ever reached unless there was a good reason for setting it.

Of course you had a reason.

Is it a good reason?

First, let’s talk about some of the wrong reasons for making resolutions:

  • It seems like it would be nice to reach it
  • I’m jealous of someone else who has already reached it and so I want to reach it, too
  • I told someone I would try to reach it

I’ll be honest. In the past, I have set goals for every single one of those reasons. And guess what happened? You probably already guessed, but my enthusiasm in reaching them fizzled FAST.

If it just seems like it would be nice to save more money, or be thinner, or travel more, then it’s going to remain a pleasant daydream you think about every now and then.

If you’re trying to reach it because you saw someone else get there and that made you jealous, you aren’t doing it for yourself anymore and eventually you’re going to stop caring about what that other person did or didn’t do. I promise. It won’t seem important for long.

The third one is tricky, because it seems good–it seems like accountability. But it’s easy to jump into a fitness Facebook group or tell everyone you’re going to lose weight, and then never actually take any steps to get there.

So then, what are the good reasons?

The thing is, your good reason is probably going to sting you a little bit when you think of it. I’m sorry about that, but it will also motivate you like nothing else.

Tap into your emotions.

Chances are, you had a deep and emotionally raw reason for wanting to save money or lose weight or spend more time with friends. That reason is going to be different for everyone, but I’ll be vulnerable here and share what my deeper reason was for setting one of my goals.

I want to start running again.

Not very deep on the surface, and I definitely have my share of shallow reasons:

  • Lookin’ good
  • Endorphins
  • Strong legs
  • Improved cardio

But deeper than that, I sustained a serious back injury over the summer.

And that took so much away from me in the months that followed.

Thankfully I’m mostly recovered, but when I think about my reasons for wanting to run again I am face to face with the fact that when I fractured that vertebrae, it made me feel utterly weak and helpless–defeated. For two or three months after it happened I knew for a fact I couldn’t run, and more than four months after it happened I had a physical therapist tell me in no uncertain terms not to run…at least, not for now (since then I’ve been given permission to run 10 minutes a day).

Beyond that, I am face to face with the fact that it happened on a mission trip. I had three weeks of spreading the Gospel and telling people my testimony stripped from me.

I am face to face with the fact that I am angry about it.

My underlying reason is that I want to prove that I am still strong, that I can overcome and make up for what my injury took from my life these last 6 months.


Tap into the “what ifs.”

What will happen if you don’t reach this goal? What are the stakes, and are they high enough?

I’ll use my running example again. If I don’t start running again, then I will have to live with the fact that I allowed myself to be defeated by a broken bone.

My cardiovascular strength will suffer, and I probably won’t be able to do the fun and adventurous things that I want to do during my year in Boulder. When my boyfriend visits, I won’t be able to keep up with him on hikes (although I’ll probably still be struggling to keep up with him once I’m running again!).

Aaaand, weight gain. That’s a thing that would probably happen, and I’d like to avoid that.

That’s all pretty motivating for me. Figure out what it is for you.

Visualize the outcome.

So, that exercise was a bit of a downer. Here’s where it gets fun!

What will it be like when you achieve this resolution/goal? What will it physically feel like? What will it emotionally feel like? Who is rooting for you now who will be immensely proud of you then? What benefits will come with it? How will your life change?

Really get into the details here. Write them down, too, if you’re a list person!

Here’s mine:

If I start running consistently again, I’ll have total victory over my injury. I’ll be able to do all sorts of things I can’t now–5ks, 10ks, maybe even marathons(?)–and I will feel healthy like I used to when I did cross country in high school.

I’ll be able to keep up with my friends when we go hiking, and I’ll be able to try new active things without being totally exhausted by them.

I might not even get winded going up the stairs anymore.

keep your resolutions

One last thing here.

Try to find someone with the same resolutions as you. They’ll probably be immensely helpful, and after you’ve read this post, you’ll be immensely helpful to them too. 😉

Don’t underestimate the power of an accountability buddy!


Turn your resolutions into SMART goals.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of SMART, it’s a way to reframe your goals so that they are…

  • Specific (or sensible)
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Make your goal specific.

Put it in simple terms and clearly define what you want to do. This step is mainly there to help you put words to it.

For example, I would take my New Year’s resolution to “start running again” and turn it into this:

I will set a weekly running schedule and stick with it, starting at 10 minutes 3 days a week after work Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday.

This gives me specifics of what I actually want to do, rather than focusing only on something vague I someday hope to achieve, as is the case with “start running again.”

Make your goal measurable.

Phrase it in a way that you know exactly what will happen when you’ve reached it. “Start running again” doesn’t really give any clues as to how to reach it. It could mean running around the block once for two minutes, or it could mean sticking to a strict running regiment for 3 months straight.

Here’s how I made my goal measurable:

I will know I have reached it when I’ve run 3 miles at a time without stopping for two weeks in a row.

This tells me that once I can run 9 miles a week (3 per day) and I’ve done it for two weeks, I’ve reached my goal.

Make your goal attainable.

This doesn’t mean you only set really easy goals. “Attainable” doesn’t necessarily mean “easy.” In fact, in this case it probably shouldn’t be easy.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”

-Theodore Roosevelt

If you’re looking at your goal right now and you’re thinking either “This is going to be a breeze” or “I might actually die if I do this,” then now is a great time to reevaluate.

Here’s what my goal is looking like right now:

I will set a weekly running schedule and stick with it, starting at 10 minutes 3 days a week after work Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. After talking to my physical therapist, I will figure out how best to gradually and safely increase my mileage. I will know I have reached it when I’ve run 3 miles at a time without stopping for two weeks in a row.

This goal is only going to be attainable for me if I don’t hurt myself worse and set my progress back. That’s why I’m involving my physical therapist (I start with a new one in two days! #excitement)

Make your goal realistic.

You need to be both willing and able to reach this goal.

I can’t really write much about this section because it’s your call, really. You know yourself the best and you know what you’re capable of!

Some websites that talk about SMART goals have the R stand for “relevant.” We talked about some of this above, but think about what reaching this goal will add to your life; if you really care about it and it’s relevant to you.

Make your goal timely.

Give it a specific time frame. Of course, different goals take different amounts of time. Whereas getting off of caffeine might only take a week or two, losing 50 pounds might take the whole year. Take a minute and think about what a realistic time frame is for the goal you have in your heart.

I haven’t spoken with my physical therapist about realistic margins for increasing mileage with a recovering vertebrae fracture, but for now I’m going to phrase my goal like this:

I will set a weekly running schedule and stick with it, starting at 10 minutes 3 days a week after work Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. After talking to my physical therapist, I will figure out how best to gradually and safely increase my mileage. I will know I have reached it when I’ve run 3 miles at a time without stopping for two weeks in a row, and I want to get there by August of 2018.

Of course, 8 months for increasing to running 3 miles is a lot for everybody, and I’ll probably scale it back. I would just rather scale it back than have to increase the time! I’m not tryna have my confidence blown.

Set mini-goals and write them on a calendar.

Divide your goal up into bite-size chunks and then set deadlines for them. Think of them like stepping stones to getting across a river.

How many mini-goals will you have?

To use the example of losing 50 pounds, do you want to set deadlines for the loss of every 5 pounds, or for the loss of every 10 pounds? Or a different number?

After you’ve decided how you will divide up your stepping stones, set deadlines for them and write them on a calendar you see often.

You may have to reevaluate these deadlines later on if progress is slower or faster than expected, but it’s good to have a rough outline.

Here’s what my calendar looks like for my running goal:

resolutions calendar

Know your enemy.

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Your enemy is the roadblock standing in front of your goal. It’s a setback. It’s what will inevitably happen when you start to make progress towards your goal.

When you’re losing weight, a roadblock might be a plateau.

When you’re cutting out caffeine, a roadblock is that first day when your withdrawal symptoms are the worst.

Make a list of a few roadblocks you are likely to encounter. Be specific about what they will look like. Here are mine:

  • Back aches
  • Tiredness after a long day of work–not wanting to run
  • Struggling to find the time
  • Bad weather

Now, that was a waste of time unless you also come up with your strategy against them! Decide how you will play offense rather than defense, if you will.

  • Back aches: Have clear instructions from physical therapist for what to do if this happens
  • Tiredness and lack of motivation: Listen to pump up playlist, decide beforehand that I will run no matter what
  • Struggling to find the time: Run on days I have nothing to do after work; if I don’t run after work, run before work the next day.
  • Bad weather: Go to the gym and run on the dreadmill (not a typo)

How will you go on the offensive?

Fight discouragement and find motivation.

Try making a motivation board. Find inspiration quotes, scriptures, pictures, newspaper articles, whatever you want! Pinterest boards are great for this. Just have a wealth of motivation stored away somewhere that you can look back at periodically when things get difficult.

Use your handy dandy Keeping Your Resolutions Workbook!

Look what I made for you!

keeping your resolutions

It’s 18 pages designed to help you reach up to 3 different goals. The workbook contains everything I’ve talked about in this article:

  • Places to write about why you set the goal
  • Spots to write up to 10 deadlines and their dates
  • A roadblocks page, as well as a place to write their solutions
  • Motivation pages

Click here for your free download!


I’d love to know what your New Year’s resolutions were and what your new and improved SMART goal is! Shoot me an email or comment below. 🙂

Until next time,

Related posts:

2 thoughts on “How to Actually Keep Your Resolutions This Year (Free Workbook!)

  1. WOW! I absolutely love this! You are right on, and this is written so well. I just learned about S.M.A.R.T. goals and have implemented them for my writing goals this year. I absolutely love how you’ve set them out here, and the download is awesome! I’m keeping my FB page focused on a friend’s book launch for this week, but will be sharing this next week on social media. xoxoxo

    1. Wow, thanks so much! SMART goals are something I think I first heard about a couple years ago and they are an absolute game-changer. And I really appreciate the shoutout!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *