New Year’s Resolutions: Do they work?

Rita Oliveira
3 min readJan 3, 2022

A new year is a symbol of new beginnings; an opportunity to reassess who we are and where we are in life, our goals, and changes we’d like to make. That’s probably why every “Happy New Year!” is usually followed by “what are your resolutions for the new year?”.

Let’s think about this for a moment. It’s wonderful that we take this opportunity to truly think about what we want in life (and how we want to live). However, we usually stick with generic sentences and vague words. Here are a few examples:

  • “I want a raise”
  • “I wish to be closer to my kids”
  • “I want to be healthier”
  • “I wish to travel more”
  • “I want to focus more on myself”

All these “resolutions” have one thing in common: they are simply wishes. We can wish to be closer to our family, or for our bank account to grow bigger; but these are not New Year-goals.

For you to set a goal, you’ll need three ingredients: action, metrics, and time.

  • Action: how do you plan on doing something? What’s the course of action that will allow you to fulfill that wish?
  • Metrics: how will you measure it?
  • Time: when do you plan on having it fulfilled?

Let’s look at a very common example:

I want to lose weight.

Action: join a gym; workout three times a week; ask a nutritionist for help;…

Metrics: Losing 5 kgs; losing 3 kgs;…

Time: Until December 2022; Until May 2022; …

If we rephrase this resolution, we will get something like this:

I want to workout three times a week and ask a nutrionist for help, in order ro lose 5 Kgs until May 2022.

What’s the difference?

Wishes or desires express a thought, or idealize something in the distant future. It’s an abstract idea. Specific goals express a very clear intention, and it gives you the power to act towards it in the present moment.

If your New Year’s Resolution translates into a clear goal or target you want to achieve (specifying the course of action you’ll take, how you’ll measure it, and deadlines), you’re more likely to stick to it throughout the year.

How to stay focused on your goals

  • Set monthly goals: this will help you create smaller targets for each month of the year. For example: if you intend to read 50 books this new year, you can set the monthly goal of reading 4 books per month.
  • Track your progress: make sure you set aside time to review your progress and understand your difficulties. Sometimes our goals need to be reviewed as well.
  • Share your goals with a friend, family member, or co-worker: this will help you stay commited.

To answer the question:

Do New Year’s resolutions work? Yes, if they are well-defined goals, followed-up frequently.

Don’t forget:

Although it’s great setting targets for the New Year, our growth path is a continuous one. Every day can be that new beggining you’re aching for!



Rita Oliveira

HR professional, Psychologist, and writer. Also a musician in training. Seeking to communicate and learn about Human interaction — especially in the workplace.