3 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Doable


3 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Doable

Chris Pennington

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I’ve not written in here in 4 days.”

That was, verbatim, the words I wrote in a notebook on January 7th, 2015. On the first morning of that new year, I resolved to journal every day. Taking two minutes every 24 hours to write a couple sentences? Piece of cake.

It lasted less than a week (the cake must’ve expired). But I shouldn’t have been surprised—I’ve fallen off countless Bible-in-a-year reading plans, signed up for gyms where I’m sure my monthly payment helped with their AC bill, and tried to learn guitar only to rediscover it in late October, collecting dust under my bed.

Show of hands for who can relate?

3 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Doable

It’s likely most of us. Studies show that 23% of Americans quit their New Year’s resolution by the end of the first week, and 43% quit by the end of January. Only a valiant 9% who make resolutions end up completing them—and my pride questions those responder’s truthfulness.

Perhaps resolutions are a lost cause? An archaic way of making goals—a sign of a simpler time when folks weren’t burdened with the business of schoolwork, corporate jobs, or Netflix (I highly recommend the documentary Quarterback, by the way).

Or, perhaps we’ve been going about this all wrong.

Maybe we keep the baby and not discard the bath water, which has become a cesspool of overambitious “new year, new me” propaganda that vision casts a better life without offering a real plan for getting there. Maybe, like me, you’ve rushed into ambiguous resolutions, not cut yourself any slack, and gone at it alone—giving no wonder as to why we fall short as early as January 7th.

Here are three practices I’ve learned that have helped me find long-term success in resolutions and goals and avoid becoming yet another statistic:

1. The Why Behind the Why Behind the Why

When I began that resolution to journal every day, I took approximately 17 seconds to devise the plan and start executing it. There were no brainstorming sessions, no pros and cons listing, and not even a moment of financial evaluation when I added the most expensive faux leather journal into my Amazon cart and clicked ‘same day delivery.’

My lack of consideration was exposed when I lost momentum in just a few days. What was once a glamorous resolution had now seemed so pointless. I’m getting along fine. Why did I even want to do this stupid resolution in the first place, again?

3 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Doable

But this was the irony of it all—that I hadn’t even thought about why I wanted to journal every day. I probably assumed it was because I wanted to be more reflective and thoughtful (which again is ironic), and yadda, yadda, yadda. But George Costanza has proved that yadda, yadda, yadda doesn’t get us anywhere. Making a resolution just to make a resolution or to be seen as “the guy who journaled a lot” turned out to be a weak motivator (and pretty embarrassing).

I realized having a meaningful “why” behind my resolutions was crucial and couldn’t be ignored.

Why did I care about being more reflective and thoughtful? Was it because other people said it was good to have those traits, or was it to become a better writer and friend? The former incentive faded quickly, but the latter gave me longer-lasting motivation.

And to dig further—why did I think journaling would be the best way to gain those traits? Was it the most efficient resolution that matched the person I wanted to become? Whether it was to get in shape, read, journal, or find more friends, I knew I had to take the time to process my “why” and keep that “why” on top of my mind as I pursued my goal.


  • Before beginning a resolution, ask why you want to do it.
  • Create your resolutions with your “why” at the forefront of your mind.
  • Ask yourself if this resolution is the best way to pursue the “why”.
  • Remind yourself often of that “why” to use as motivation.

2. Let’s Talk Specifics

I was in the camp of “more than/less than” goal-setting for a while. You know, I want to read more than I did last year. I want to work out more than I did last year. I want to play the Halo Master Chief Collection video game set less than I did last year.

Okay, that last one is likely just me. But over time, I saw how this was a pattern in me setting any resolution or goal. I’d somehow unintentionally make it a point to be as vague as possible, have no specific bar that I wanted to hit, and even with a fantastic intention, see an inevitable crumble because my unspoken expectation was that I’d just be “better” in some area of life than I was before.

3 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Doable

But what if I didn’t work out at all the previous year? Or hadn’t touched a book since seventh grade? Was the benchmark then to just lift one dumbbell, read one line of a children’s book, and call it a year? I learned I needed to get specific with my resolutions to see calculable results.

Read one book a week. Or once a month. Go to the gym every other day. Or on my off days. Only play Halo on Saturdays. Whatever it was, placing a number on it helped aim me toward actually accomplishing my resolutions. Putting a repeating reminder in my phone or calendar also helped me see it as a regular part of my life, not just something to do whenever I happened to remember it.


  • Assess your journey or lack thereof of this resolution in past years.
  • Create resolutions that are quantifiable and specific.
  • Plan out your days, weeks, and months of how you will go about each goal as a part of your regular schedule.

3. Pace Yourself (Feat. Grace)

Now, being specific with my resolutions has proven fruitful in my life, but like the number of times my dad watches National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in December, some boundaries and limitations should still be set.

When I looked back on my failed journal New Year’s resolution the other day, I noticed I had only written in it a handful of times the rest of that year. I had been so discouraged with my poor start to the resolution that I threw the goal away (and almost literally the journal).

As much as I wanted to get up on January 2nd, having mastered waking up at 6 AM, eating nine eggs, running a half-marathon, memorizing Deuteronomy, and getting ahead on the next decade’s taxes, I knew I needed to look at this as a journey of growth, not an overnight (or even, sometimes, over-year) change.

3 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Doable

It hit me that becoming a disciplined person required discipline to get there. (Duh). That meant having my goals start small…awkwardly and uncomfortably small. Maybe it wasn’t just going to the gym once a week but once a week for 20 minutes. Perhaps it was reading the Bible for one minute a day, or journaling one sentence. Then, over time, have those bars slowly increase.

It initially felt painfully slow and embarrassing, but I found that going at a snail’s pace and being successful in the long run was better than sprinting full speed ahead, burning out, and quitting altogether.

I also knew I had to show myself an excessive amount of grace as I began my new resolutions and lifestyle habits. If I missed a day of reading, journaling, working out, or shredding my non-calloused skin on guitar strings, it was OK. I didn’t need to exterminate the whole resolution—but I would get back at it as soon as possible.


  • Start embarrassingly small with your goals.
  • Build the goals up over time as you start to find good rhythms.
  • Show yourself grace and get back on the horse if (and likely when) you aren’t perfect.

BONUS: The More the Merrier

For a long time, I had a deep pride that never allowed me to do New Year’s resolutions alongside someone. Then, my 0% success rate on resolutions finally humbled me enough that I should probably recruit a partner to climb the hills with me.

3 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Doable

Grab a friend and go to the gym together. Text each other when you read or journal. Send them photos of setting your alarm for 6 A.M. Whatever it is, surely someone else is struggling to take on their resolution alone, and like you, could use someone else to accompany them.

Grab a partner and tackle it together (it’ll be more fun that way, too).

Why (Again)?

Why do we do New Year’s resolutions? Most of us probably say things like “to grow,” “to get better in some areas,” or “for a fresh start.” But what is the deeper “why” behind those answers? Why do we care about growing or getting better at things? What is happening in our lives that we need constant fresh starts? Why is resolving to be better “better” than not resolving to be better?

The answers to those questions feel so intrinsic to us that we may have never considered them. Growing and changing for good just seems and feels good. It should then come as no surprise that throughout the Bible, growth is reiterated as something God desires in our lives:

“…for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:7-10).

3 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Doable

This year, we can accomplish our resolutions. We can make long-lasting lifetime goals that will undoubtedly take time and require enduring failure and re-planning to achieve them—but will eventually change our lives for the better. But above all, through the growing pains, we can see this good desire that God placed in us and be reminded of him every time we take a step.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Growth is in our DNA, and I believe it takes thought, being specific, and a whole lot of grace to be shown as fruitful in our lives. Working out, eating healthily, and waking up early can all be good—but what they reflect is of greater value, to grow in knowledge and hope of the God of the universe, something that will never taken from us (in this life or the next).

Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.

To listen to the podcast version of this article, click here.

Chris Pennington
Meet the author

Chris Pennington

Hi. I'm Chris. I'd like to think I'm an open book, which usually consists of useless hockey knowledge, Cajun food and a love of cats. Ask me about the time I broke the law to meet LeBron.

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