New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work – or perhaps they can

Although the New Year is an arbitrary date, we human beings are programmed to symbolic beginnings and endings and invest heavily in the power of renewal and the new start. And so, many of us began the New Year with resolutions – make a job move, exercise daily, learn Spanish, lose 3 kilos, answer all emails within 24 hours…. All good ideas and honestly meant, but here we are one week into 2023 and already slipping and sliding down the slope of unfulfilled self-promises. So I would like to offer you 2 tools that can help with your New Year’s Resolutions.

Tool 1 Create a habit

In a presentation to Trusted Coach Directory coaches, Leadership Team Coach Dave Stitt posed the question: How can we protect our confidence?  One of his tools is to create habits. This is good advice in our context, as creating a habit is easier than fulfilling a resolution, because it tempts the brain with a doable action without any guilt attached. When we don’t fulfil a promise to ourselves, we are full of self-recrimination – which is a blow to our confidence. But without the glorious resolution I can happily get on with my habit; it’s just something I do every day.

Start with one action, then the same action again, and so on.  Soon, your actions have become habits, and you can proudly look back on your success. Checked your Excel sheet on contacts in your industry and reached out to 3 people this week.  Exercised 3 times this week and went for a run on Saturday. Dedicated 10 minutes to Spanish learning materials over a coffee 3 times this week. Refused chocolate, dessert and alcohol all week. Answered 70-80% of emails every day. You’re well on your way!

Tool 2 Decide what’s important

Sometimes we pluck resolutions seemingly out of the air. Make a job move, exercise daily, learn Spanish, (and so on, see above). But how important are these to you? How vital to your life and work are they?  If you are diagnosed with a serious health condition which requires a special diet to keep it under control, your food choices will be of utmost importance. So ask yourself what is really important? Is it moving jobs, or doing something to improve the work in your current job? What benefit would speaking Spanish bring?

I’m talking here about what we like to call values. I did a values exercise with a coaching client recently and he was quite surprised to identify his top 5 values, which made him realign his priorities for the coming year. Stability and security were one of the values he chose; the apparently exciting-looking job offer became less attractive, filled with uncertainty and extra workload as it was. If we can align our resolutions with our values, we have a better chance of keeping them. Happy New Year!


‘New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work – or perhaps they can’ – written by Career and Leadership Coach Susan Doering.

Susan is passionate to help clients solve challenges and achieve their goals, by guiding, empowering and enabling them to work at their best.

Read more blogs from Susan – Should we career coach women and men differently?