From the BlogSubscribe Now

5 Strategies to Successful New Year Resolutions

Are you baffled at how you’re going to make your new year resolutions stick this year?

Achieving new year resolutions leads to joyEvery year you are greeted with this gorgeous blank slate full of possibilities for your health, relationships, business, and personal goals. But you might be confused at how to go about making positive changes in your life. You know where you are now, and you know where you want to be, but you might not know how to get from A to B.

We wrote about working your dream down into a tangible goal you could reach in Dream Save Do. It is key to make the transition from the general “I want to lose weight” to the specific “I want to lose 15 pounds by June 1.” Without a specific goal and a deadline, you don’t really have much to work with. But once you do have that specific goal and deadline, how do you make it happen?

The strategies below are proven methods to go from dream to done in your new year planning, and we’ve successfully used all of them at one time or another. An added bonus is that you don’t even have to start them on January 1. Your new year can start anytime you want it to!  Just like  there is no “one size fits all” plan for life, there is no one way to plan for your new year or assigned date on which you have to start. The important thing is to state a measurable goal and find a system that works for you in achieving it.

The Renaissance Approach

In order to live a really healthy life, you have to focus on all the aspects of your life when you list your goals. If you aren’t physically healthy you may not have the stamina to reach your work goals, and if you aren’t in a good relationship you may not have the support you need to go back to school or start a business. Everything works together in goal planning, and you have to think about the advances you want to make in each area of your life: Personal, Health, Relationship/Family, Work, Giving Back.

This is our third year of doing a comprehensive retreat, and the changes in our lives during that time are proof that this kind of planning and attention works. We got our start from Chris Guillebeau, a renaissance man if there ever was one, and we think you can successfully use this method at the start of the new year or on your birthday, which is technically your New Year’s Day, right?


The Engineering Method

We love tracking metrics. We did it for 25 months as we saved for our big trip and systematically sold, trashed, or donated everything we owned. And since leaving, we’ve tracked all of our spending to stay on budget. We track our website statistics, our daily word count in writing the new book, and we each carry a small notebook to capture new ideas as they come to us. We are geeks when it comes to tracking, and we know you can make huge strides forward in your goals when you take them from lofty ideas to concrete plans you can track.

Our friend Dwayne Melancon has a somewhat geeky but very effective approach to New Year’s resolutions that involves the use of a Mind Map. Dwayne is a technology guru and autodidact, and he spends a great deal of time pursuing his genuine curiosity and overall self improvement. Dwayne always knows the latest gadget, methodology, or business idea, and he puts this all to use in his work and personal life. He’s a happy, productive guy, and it is due in no small part to his annual efforts to plan for that result.

Mind Map for New Year's Resolutions from Genuine Curiosity

The Celebrity Scoop

If you need the support of others, going the celebrity route might be just the thing. Proclaiming your goals via Facebook, website, video, or even just announcing it to your friends can make a huge difference in your ability to achieve those goals. When I signed up for the 2010 Seattle Rock-n-Roll Marathon, I took on a Lady Gaga attitude and made it public. I gave updates on the blog and Facebook, and all my friends knew about it. It was very hard to back down on my commitment with all of those people watching. The same thing happened to Warren with the Fremont Solstice Parade in 2010. He had been mentioning it for years that he was going to be one of the naked bicyclists, but it wasn’t until he finally put it down as a goal and said he would do it on the blog and on video that it happened.

You may or may not want to ride in the buff in front of thousands of people, but you probably do have an audience of friends and supporters who would encourage you to reach your goal. You could even go as far as Perez Hilton, who proclaimed in late 2007 that he would be posing shirtless in front of millions of viewers on the following July 4. Perez was significantly overweight at the time, and he spent the next 4 years working out and eating right, losing an overall 61 pounds. He also kept true on his commitment to pose shirtless every July 4 to keep himself motivated.


The Artist’s Way

It is easy to talk yourself out of tracking your creative pursuits. I mean, they are creative pursuits, above the status of numbers and checklists and timelines. You can’t rush art!

Well, you may not be able to rush it, but you certainly need a scope and a deadline. If your goal is something of a creative nature, it is doubly important for you to set up metrics to track your progress. Don’t get caught up in the angst and romance of creation, thinking it cannot be good if there is no suffering or breakthrough involved. I used to do that, and it wasn’t until I assigned daily word counts that I was able to actually complete a book with very little angst and zero blood loss. Creativity craves routine just as much as routine craves creativity.

“You know who gets writer’s block? Non-writers. They think it’s cool and romantic to struggle to make Art. They make sure everyone knows how torturous the process is, so when they finally squeeze something out, it won’t be judged on its merits but rather the emotional anguish involved in its creation. Writers write. Posers whine about how hard it is.” ~ screenwriter John August

If you need support in your artistic endeavors, make plans now for NaNoWriMo, the 3-Day Novel Contest, or getting some specific help through a writer’s critique group or a primer on book proposals (this is the one we just used to create our proposal). Set up your daily word or page count, or really challenge yourself by producing a painting a day for 100 days like Jolie did.

Old School Style

Psychologist Cliff Arnall, who studies happiness, states that the unhappiest day of the year is the third Monday in January while the happiest day is June 17. Starting out your biggest plans of the year when your mental health is at an all-time low could be counterproductive to your goals. He advocates starting your goals at a time other than January 1 to have a better chance of success.

Many people do this subconsciously in the spring (spring cleaning, garage sales, diets for swimsuit season) and in the fall (school starts, the end of vacations, back to “serious” work). For years, I considered September the start of my new year just because of school, and later I switched that to my birthday, which is in early December. It gave me almost a month’s headstart on my goals in comparison to everyone else.

You don’t have to make your New Year’s Resolutions begin on January 1. In fact, just about anytime is a good time to wipe the slate clean, state your goals out loud, and develop a plan to reach them. Pick a method, combine a few, or come up with your own. The important thing is to do something about your dreams, because if you don’t, no one else will.

Make the next year one for the history books.

2012 in a nutshell

How do you want your life to look at this time next year? When you start with a picture in mind, it is a lot easier to work backward to create a plan for reaching it. To do it, you must be able to see it.

  • State your goal
  • Find a method to make it happen
  • Track your success until you reach your goal

Set the date. Be excited. Do it!

Find out more about reaching your goals here.


Please share with your friends...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on StumbleUponShare on LinkedIn
About Betsy

Betsy Talbot can't live without a Moleskine notebook, her passport, and happy hour. She sold everything she owned to travel the world with her husband Warren in 2010, and she's been enjoying her midlife crisis ever since. Betsy writes about creating the life you want from the life you already have in her books and on the Married with Luggage website. Drop her an email at btalbot (at) marriedwithluggage (dot) com and check out her Google+ page.


  1. Love love love this, Betsy! You cover all the bases here, leaving no one any room for excuses. I’ll be stealing your daily word count advice this year for sure – and it seems I’ll need to be talking to Warren about how to ask for what I want, too! Thanks for the inspiration and tricks!

    • Jess, the daily word count is key. You can’t edit and craft it into perfection until you first get the words written, and this will insure you do it. Good luck!

      Warren is the king of the ask, and we just talked today about how we will provide more help on the website around that. Lots of good stuff coming in 2012, so stay tuned.

  2. Really great post. Thanks for sharing it Betsy. I enjoyed reading it a lot. I NEVER stick to new years resolutions, but this year I definitely am. I just came across your page, will definitely be back. Hope you had a great Christmas and you have an even better new year. Rochelle.

  3. So…great! I obviously love your book “Dream Save Do” but I have to say what I still lack on is telling people what I want and putting it out there. I know I sensor my own blog posts and my own conversations with what I really want. I might even not say it out loud sometimes. lol How can anyone know that is what I want? or hold me accountable? I know!!! That is going to be my what I am going to work on. Telling people what I want and then hopefully getting it. ;)

    Thanks for a good kick in the butt! I always need it.

    • Paz, you are not alone. Many people struggle with the “art of the ask” – which is why our resident expert on the subject is going to be writing more about it this year on the blog and on the Try Something New ezine. Look for much more in 2012 from Warren on how to ask for what you want to the people who can do it for you. He’s a pro!

  4. Betsy– there’s such good advice here, thanks! I especially love the quote from John August.

    And thanks for including me as part of your inspiration.

  5. …aaaahhh yes – THE New Year’s with “friends” ;-) ….so proud of your continued success. I loved these points and will be sharing with the community tomorrow as money and resolutions is one of our topics!

  6. Great options for carrying through on one’s “dreams-to-become-realities.” And great timing. Working on my creative/artistic goals for 2012 over this long weekend. And I won’t wait until the 3rd Monday in January to start the implementation! Actually managed to get my book finished (“Journey On! Taking Your Travel Experience to the Next Level”) and available for sale on by the end of 2011. Participating with you in Meet Plan Go was an important element in keeping the motivation up to finish the project. Thanks!!! The key I’ve found to follow-through is enlisting a friend to be involved in a weekly (or so) check-in. We call it “Art Night,” time to be creative at least weekly and let the other know about progress, whether success or failure (both can constitute progress).

  7. I’ve been busy working on my 2012 goals for the past few days now, for both CheeseWeb, ACM Photography as well as personal ones. I always hesitate to classify things as ‘resolutions’ because that word sounds so final. It almost sets you up for failure if you stumble just a little bit. I think goals can be more flexible and, especially when you are planning for a whole year, you need targets that will change as you change. I agree that looking back over past accomplishments is very important, but it’s also interesting to note what didn’t get accomplished and why. I have a few things on last year’s goal list that never happened, because totally different and better things happened instead. If I had have ‘resolved’ to finish those things, I probably wouldn’t have had time to tackle the new, better goals.


  1. [...] contain a descriptor AND a unit of time. This is important, because we’ve talked before about dreams without deadlines (they don’t ever happen). The other consideration is to make it something you can share with [...]


Romance Bucket ListGet Your Romance Bucket List!

52 Easy Ways to Re-ignite Your Relationship

Think your relationship is destined to become boring as the years pass? Not so! Find out how to add some zing into your long-term fling with the Romance Bucket List. You'll get the full scoop delivered asap to your inbox when you subscribe to our juicy Sunday emails below.