5 Kick-Ass Strategies for Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick


January 4, 2015 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

Because, of course, everyone is already telling you there’s no point, right? 

We wouldn't want to be pointless, would we?

Image from The Point Courtesy of The Animatorium

1.  Make them for the right reasons.

Right reason: There’s a behavior you want to change, or something new you want to bring into your life that will enrich it.

Wrong reason: You are trying to prove yourself worthy of love, respect, or membership in the Cool Kids Club.

Perfecting yourself – if that is actually possible – is not a way to become worthy; it’s a way to become insufferable.

If you are on the Intertubes with any regularity, you probably have come across Brené Brown’s TEDx talk on vulnerability. If not, you owe yourself.

One of her key points is that a sense of self-worth develops through choices and daily practice that focus deliberately on courage, compassion and connection. You will make mistakes.Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to make the most of them. They are opportunities to cultivate courage, compassion and connection, on your own behalf, and for others.

“This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim.” Courtesy Pastimes of Mine

“This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim.” Courtesy Pastimes of Mine

2. Less is more.

Sometimes quite literally. The first time in recent memory I can point to a resolution I kept all year was in 2012, when I promised to give one thing back to the universe every day. I had been reading Francine Jay, better known as Miss Minimalist, and The Joy of Less. So the resolution was in the spirit of recovering some of that joy.

The reading itself was timely, as in 2012 my home was in the path of the second wave tsunami caused by the mortgage crisis.


As my foreclosure counselor put it, the first people to lose their homes in the Great Recession were people with subprime mortgages. The second wave were people who lost their livelihood when the economy crashed.

In the downsizing required to place my most important but nonessential possessions into as small a storage space as possible and move myself and my essentials in with a friend, I figured I might as well bring something positive out of the inevitable. Where resolutions are concerned, that’s a very good place to start.

3. Hold yourself accountable.

Francine Jay recommends taking photographs to minimize your possessions – particularly with mementos you do not have space for. I regularly take photographs of things I donate anyway, for tax purposes. In 2012 such photographs served as a documentation of my resolution as well. I posted weekly on Facebook about the things I had consigned, sometimes with accompanying stories. It was one of my more active periods there, and I was told by several friends that this divestment inspired them to do something similar.

A dresser my father painted and my sister stenciled. One of the things I could not take with me.

A dresser my father painted and my sister stenciled. One of the things I could not take with me.

Whatever it was I resolved in 2013, if anything, didn’t stick; I suspect 2012 exhausted me. In 2014 I resolved to blog weekly. That did.

Though I am not one of those people who is convinced that if you read something on the Internet, it must be true, apparently it is possible to put something on the Internet so that it can become true. The best way to do this is to find a tribe that shares and supports the change you want to make. I found that tribe on Twitter, by connecting with other bloggers there through hashtag memes.

4. Don’t rely exclusively on those close to you for support.

I won't talk about the log if you don't, Ole.  Log, Lena? What log?

“I won’t talk about the log if you don’t, Ole.” “Log, Lena? What log?”

When you are trying to change a habit that involves others you live with – such as eating more healthful meals – their cooperation is of course helpful. However, a sad but true thing can sometimes happen between intimates and close friends. Their flaws are annoying, but they give us permission to have flaws of our own.

If you are both trying to make a change, and you both have setbacks, how tempting to throw in the towel together! It is easy to confuse this mutual subversion with the acceptance and unconditional love we all seek. It is something else altogether. Stay clear.

5. Stick with one.

One may be the loneliest number that you’ll ever do, but it’s also a very effective number. There are so many other places you are required to multitask, day in and day out. Where change is concerned, focus works best.

If you want to consider more than one change – or if the one change you would like to implement is a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) that involves lots of little steps, like mine is – try implementing the 21 day habit approach, which my blogging friend Shelley Wilson used to great effect.

And what would my BHAG be? Alas, dear Reader, for that you must stay tuned…


[I know... It's Abominable of Me...]

[I know… It’s Abominable of Me…]

20 thoughts on “5 Kick-Ass Strategies for Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick

  1. Annecdotist says:

    I won’t be making resolutions myself, but there is one surprisingly simple behavioural strategy that I know has been well researched and shown to be effective, which is about making “if-then” statements or resolutions. In other words, linking the desired behaviour to something else in our routine, e.g. “if I have a cup of coffee I’ll work for an hour on my novel”; “if it stops raining, I shall go for a walk outside”. And shown to be effective for lots of things.


    • Hmmm. I would have thought a reward if-then statement would work better – as in, “if i work for an hour on my novel, then i get a cookie on my coffee break.” But you’re the behaviour expert. Maybe I’ll give it a try!


      • Annecdotist says:

        Indeed, I thought that too. I’m not sure that the two approaches have been compared, and maybe my example of the cup of coffee wasn’t the best one as I agree it sounds more like a reward, but I think the if-then approach works well because it cuts out the thinking and you just do it because you’ve made a commitment. PS not that I’ve ever tried it for myself but I did work with someone who’d researched it.


  2. Thanks for another insightful, inspiring post, Paula. I always enjoy your work. BTW, my family loves The Point, but we have no idea where to get a copy. I followed your link and left a note for someone there. Maybe this post will be even more important to me than I think! lol


    • Sharon – it’s available on YouTube; if you click on the first link in the caption, it should bring you to that; otherwise I think the YouTube link is also in the post. Not the same as having a copy on DVD, I suppose – but close!


  3. This is a wonderful, inspiring, and logical post. I will be sure to share it as I’m sure so many could benefit from your words of wisdom. Thank you for your insights!


  4. Judith Post says:

    Whatever your big hairy goal is, good luck!


  5. Charli Mills says:

    Finding Ole and Lena here was a highlight! Brene Brown is amazing. Simply seeing her makes me feel inspired. Very practical post!


  6. What a great post Paula, thank you for sharing. I’m also extremely honoured to have a cameo appearance! I understand the burnout factor you mentioned, moving from one successful year to a less motivated one. I’m still feeling a bit lacklustre but it has spurred on an alternative post from me this week! Happy New Year to you and long may our goals be hairy! ;)


  7. […] 5 Kick-Ass Strategies for Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick – Paula Reed Nancarrow. Now is about the time that folks begin to fall off the wagon. Here are some strategies to help. […]


  8. […] and forwards, goal-setting acronyms can easily creep into people’s personal lives. In my last post, I used one myself: […]


  9. I don’t make resolutions any more as I’ve spent way too much time beating myself up about failing to tick off all the things I’ve scheduled to do & never done. Now I’m far more laid back probably as a result of my Dad’s stroke; if I’ve achieved something brilliant if not, it’ll keep


  10. […] by myself – as if we ever really own anything. I’ve written of the experience here and here. For the last three years I have been living with a friend, paying her rent, and building my […]


  11. Alexis says:

    I love the first part about courage, compassion, and connection. I think when we’re cruel or impatient with people, it’s usually because we don’t bother to understand or connection with them. I’ve been making a point to connect more with the people around me, from my neighbors and violin students, to clerks in the store, to my family. It makes the world feel warmer, kinder, and happier.


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