New Year's firework display to celebrate successful resolutions

How Do I Create Successful New Years Resolutions?

“Quitting smoking is easy!” quipped Ken. “I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

Ken made resolutions, but they rarely produced lasting results. Like many of us do.

We resolve to change, take action, but when things get in the way and/or motivation fades, we drift back into comfortable habits.

Instead of creating results that matter—and reaping the rewards—we feel frustrated, guilty, even depressed.

Tips For Creating Great New Years Resolutions

1. Set Results Goals, Not Process Goals

Most resolutions focus on focus on processes, i.e. actions. 

“Jog every day.” “Quit smoking.” “Save money.”

But, when you imagine process goals, you also imagine the work needed to reach them. Thinking about “all that work” puts you off, saps your energy.

 Imagining fully-completed results goals motivates and energizes you. 

“A lean, fit, healthy body.” “A $5000 “rainy day” account.” “A home-based business.”

If your resolutions start with a verb, they’re process goals.
If they start with a noun they are results goals.

Results goals generate more energy and far better results than process goals.

2. Envision Your Result Fully Completed

Concepts— “thriving business,” “great relationship,” “new car”— are a good place to start. However, you’ll generate way more immediate and lasting energy for action, if you focus your concepts into clear visions of end results. 

Craft a clear, compelling mental picture of your completed result. See it as if it already exist—and you love having it in your life.

Which is more compelling?

A new car.” Or “A jet black, 2020 Tesla 3 with a beige heated seats, black leather upholstery, and a 4-speaker Bose audio system” 

The more detail—success criteria— you include, the more power your vision will have to get you moving, and keep moving until you bring your desired result into being.

Writing out your vision helps a great deal. When you think it’s clear and compelling, stand up and read it aloud. If the hair on the back of your neck stands up, or you feel a bit choked up, it’s generating energy for action.

 If it doesn’t generate that kind of feeling, rework it until it does.

2. Ground Visions In Accurate, Objective Assessments Of Current Reality

To take effective action, you must also know where you’re starting from. 

Imagine you want to fly to London, and think you’re in New York City, but you’re actually in Stockholm. Almost any action you take will move you in the wrong direction.

To create real and lasting results, you must have a solid base from which to start. However, many of us tend to misrepresent reality. My mentor, Robert Fritz, used to say that most of us have an adversarial relationship with reality.

Instead of describing reality, we tend to judge it. “My life sucks!” or “My life is great.,”

Neither is an objective assessment of current reality.

Distorting reality creates a shaky foundation for action. You end up in Estonia, instead of NYC. So describe reality, don’t judge it! 

Instead of “My life sucks!” say something like, “I’m behind at work, and feel overwhelmed. But my health is good, and I’m putting $100 a month into savings.” 

A solid grounding in current reality makes your vision more than wishful thinking.

3. Hold Vision and Reality In Mind Together

Simultaneously holding vision and reality in mind generates creative tension. Tension means “a tendency to move. “

Creative tension generates energy for actioneven when motivation fades, or you just don’t feel like it!

The energy it creates keeps you slogging across the flat part of the learning curve—where the first 80% of actions generate just 20% of your desired results.

And build the momentum you need to get to the steep, upward curve, where the last 20% of your action generates 80% of your results.

A graphic showing the relationship between vision, current reality, creative tension and action in the life design framework

4. Take Small Steps. Create And Adjust…

Dream big, but start small. 

The word resolution used to mean “a breaking into parts.” So break large goals down into sub-goals, and sub-sub-goals. Set up creative tension for each of those goals/results.

Then start with small, easy action steps. See each step as an experiment that—successful or not—teaches you what to do next. Small results become the building blocks for large results.

Starting small overcomes fear and inertia. It leads to quick successes that build confidence and momentum, and increased energy with which to stretch for larger steps.

Don’t be a perfectionist. First steps are rarely perfect. If you don’t like the result of an action step, try a different action. See failure as merely feedback. Try, try again.

5. Maintain Momentum

Momentum helps keep you going in the face of uncertainty, obstacles, or adversity. 

It builds as you slog across the flat part of the learning curve—learning from actions and results—and leads to the steeply part of the learning curve, where results come easy.

If you take an action that doesn’t work, or circumstances set you back, try this: 

  • Notice what happened, and what you’re saying about it
  • Is it true? Is it accurate and objective? If it not, make it so 
  • Then, ask, “What do I want?”
  • Imagine your end result, fully complete, then consciously choose it
  • Saying, “I choose…” followed by your result helps you commit to it
  • Take whatever next step occurs to you. Then the next… until you succeed

Shifting focus from problem solving to creating results makes it much easier to create results that matter.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice…

Recent research on “grit” shows that, along with passion and perseverance, practice is the key to creating lasting results.

You do not not need to practice 10,000 hours to get good at creating most results. However, in my Life Design work, people who practice get results. People who don’t, do not.

Resolutions that work are driven by vision, grounded in reality and focused on action that builds momentum, and follows through to completion. 


For an deeper look at how how this process can help you create great results, check out my free ebook Thrive

Bruce Elkin

Life Design Coach. Personal Life Coach. 25 years experience. Clients on 6 continents. Author of 5 books and ebooks. Cares about the Earth and living in harmony with its natural systems.