Tips to make your New Year’s resolution a success

Experts share tips on how to succeed with New Year's resolutions
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 6:13 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - We’re only a few days into the new year, so hopefully you haven’t given up on your resolutions yet. With the right tips, maybe you can stick with them all year long.

NHRMC Director of Behavioral Health Dr. Kathleen Young says sticking to those goals is possible with the right tools. One of the first steps is creating S.M.A.R.T. goals.

  • S - Specific: Set a detailed goal so you know exactly what to do to achieve the end result you’re looking for. Example: Instead of saying “I’m going to be healthier,” say “I’m going to eat more vegetables at dinner.”
  • M - Measurable: Is there a way to tell your goal has been reached? If you can’t quantify your goal, it’s hard to tell if you’ve made progress from where you started. Example: Have a dollar amount in mind when you say you want to invest or save more money from each paycheck.
  • A - Attainable: Make sure your goal is something you can manage in the face of challenges. Example: Losing 50 lbs is possible, but can you avoid temptations that might keep you from your goal weight?
  • R - Relevant: Make sure it’s something that’s important to you. It needs to be more important than the inevitable hurdles you’ll come across. Example: Your goal to stop drinking has to be a higher priority than nights out at the bar with friends.
  • T - Time-bound: Example: Set a deadline date to quit smoking rather than leaving it open-ended.

Making the decision on what you’d like to change is the easy part but keeping that commitment is where you may run into trouble. People have reasons for the habits they’ve made in life, including the habits they’d like to break.

“If it was a matter of doing what we know is the right thing to do, what would be best for us, we’d be doing it,” said Young.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. If you want to lose weight, quitting fast food might be an easy option during your lunch break. A person wanting to invest their money might have no idea where to start. That’s why hiring a professional might be the way to go.

Changing your financial situation

In terms of finances, you may be hoping to save more money to put aside for emergencies. Others may have a well-established savings account already and are looking for ways to invest their cash. SMART goals still matter in either situation as you decide what your short-term or long-term goals are.

Certified financial planner Megan Kopka says you need to have a good idea of your budget, your income and expenses and your cash flow. Once you discover those details, you can identify how much you have to put towards your goals and work on transforming your finances.

Here are some ways you could start improving your finances:

  • Work on saving 10 to 15 percent of your income to put towards your retirement over all of your working years.
  • Organize your documents including your investments, insurances and taxes.
  • Get your estate in order. This doesn’t just mean your will and trust, but also your title and beneficiaries as well.
  • Start an emergency fund that covers three to six months of your monthly budget. It may take a while to build that fund, but it’s still an attainable goal.

Getting your finances in order can be an overwhelming task but a financial planner can help.

“A lot of financial advisors offer complimentary consultations,” said Kopka. “If now is not the right time for you to work with someone, they’ll let you know when to come back.”

CFPs help organize your documents and make sure all your numbers are adding up as they should be, but they can also identify issues you could be missing. Those issues could be that you don’t have enough income or a large enough savings. In that case, your goal may need to be altered as well as your lifestyle. That could mean taking on a roommate or a second job. You may instead find that you have a surplus of income that needs to be put towards either retirement or savings.

There are many common mistakes you should try to avoid on your financial journey. Paying off your mortgage early is one of them.

“When you have a 2.75 [percent] mortgage, just let that ride,” said Kopka. “You are likely better off over 30 years saving extra in a retirement account than to pay off a mortgage.”

Another mistake is to have a large amount of money that goes unused and sitting in a bank account. In those cases, it may be better to invest your money since you’re missing out on opportunities to build that dollar amount. If that doesn’t align with your goals, you may want to consider buying a second home or put it towards your child’s college education. Kopka says that while saving money is important, it isn’t everything. You should have a healthy balance between long-term financial goals and living for today.

Hitting the gym

There are a variety of reasons you may want to be more active in the new year. Those reasons range from losing weight to gaining muscle to simply wanting to feel healthier and better about yourself. No matter what, you have to establish what your goal is before knowing where to start.

Personal trainer Amy Stewart says if your goal is losing weight, it’s a good idea to start off by taking your measurements and weight so you know where you’re starting. No matter what your goals are, though, it’s always good to start with the basics in your workouts.

Here are a few tips to get the blood flowing:

  • Start slow so you don’t get overwhelmed. If your goal is to run a marathon, start with some smaller races.
  • Do some core work to get your abs engaged.
  • Get some cardio in. Whether you’re walking or running, it’s good to get the blood pumping.

It doesn’t take too long for people to start giving up on new year’s resolutions at the gym. Part of that, Stewart says, is because people aren’t setting reasonable goals for themselves to achieve.

“The first month, they’re thinking ‘I’m going to see all these changes,’ and then they get frustrated,” said Stewart. “[They think] it’s just not their thing or maybe they’re bored. They need to find something that’s not boring to them.”


Hiring a certified financial planner or personal trainer may not fit with everyone’s budget or lifestyle. Still, it’s a good idea to have someone hold you accountable — even if that person is yourself.

“Get someone that you know you’re going to work out with or write it down,” said Stewart. “Write your goals down on the calendar. Every day, write down you did that workout and see it there on your refrigerator.”

If you put that calendar in a place you look at constantly, you’ll likely hold yourself accountable by feeling bad if you miss a day at the gym. That will result in more motivation not to miss your next gym routine.

It’s important to remember that changes won’t happen overnight. The weight won’t fall off in a matter of weeks and life’s surprises may set back your financial goals, too. It can be easy to be discouraged, especially if you feel like some setbacks could have been avoided. Still, Young says you shouldn’t give up.

“Be forgiving of [yourself] and know that it’s human to have slips whenever we’re trying to make changes in our lives,” said Dr. Young. “If we view making changes as a lifestyle change rather than making a drastic shift, that can help us to be able to pick back up and get to where we’re going.”

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