How to Be Like the 8% Who Actually Stick to Their New Year’s Resolutions


Most New Year’s resolutions are made to fail. Only 8% of people manage to keep their resolutions, and according to some studies, an incredible 80% of resolutions don’t even make it to February.

Why? Well, one fundamental problem with typical New Year’s Resolutions is that they only focus on the end result. “I want to lose weight” sounds like a good resolution. But you can’t just “lose weight,” or everyone would do it!

Folks who manage to keep their resolutions typically break a big goal down into smaller goals that they can achieve every day, every week, every month to create a sense of sustainable progress. That’s why “I’m going to hit the gym three days every week” is a better goal than “I want to lose weight.” The end result you have in sight is the same, but the process – the HOW – is much clearer.

That simple change in perspective might help you achieve some key goals in 2019. In recent years, I’ve reframed my own approach to New Year’s resolutions. Before I turn the last page on my calendar, I like to spend time reflecting on last year to identify what’s really important in my personal life and career. It’s how I create a vision for where I want to go in the year ahead.

Here are some key questions I ask myself as part of this reflecting and envisioning process.

Reflect on 2018.

We often say “hindsight is 20/20” when looking back on a mistake we wish we’d avoided. But hindsight can be a very powerful tool if we approach it from a more positive angle. Taking time to reflect on the impact of different events, personal milestones, and yes, the bumps we hit along the way, can help clarify how to best move forward.

Ask yourself these questions about 2018:

  • What went right? Where did you find success, professionally and personally? Why? How are you in better shape than you were 12 months ago?
  • What went wrong? What mishaps, failures, or shortcomings did I encounter this year? How did they impact me in the long run?
  • What did I learn? How have I grown in the last year? What are some takeaways from both my successes and failures?

Envision a successful 2019.

As you envision how to make 2019 your best year yet, be realistic. Determine one or two essential things you’d like to focus on. You have a much better chance of achieving a couple well-defined goals that are important to you than a whole bunch of goals that are all over the map.

Use these questions to determine what’s most important in 2019:

  • What do I need to say “yes” to? What are the non-negotiables in your life? What should you start doing more of this year? Who are the people that you want to invest in? What habits should you continue to cultivate?
  • What do I need to say “no” to? What commitments or habits get in the way of what matters most? What things do I need to let go?
  • Where would I like to be a year from now? What ambitions do you have for the coming year? Why are these hopes important to you? What changes do you need to make?

Empower yourself to make change happen.

I already discussed that breaking a big goal down into smaller, actionable “Hows” can help you achieve better results.

But we often forget to ask another important question when we’re making resolutions: “Why?”

Being clear about your reasons for making a resolution will increase your motivation. And the stronger your motivation, the more likely you’ll be to incorporate steps to hit your goals into your daily routine.

Another thing that’s helped me with my resolutions is to have an accountability partner. Maybe that partner is a spouse who’s aiming for the same financial goals. It could be a personal trainer. It could be a business coach who helps you find ways to reach greater professional heights.

Whoever that person is for you, knowing that someone will be checking in and asking hard questions will add more fuel to your fire.

Ask yourself these questions to create an action plan:

  • How will I accomplish this? How can I break this commitment down into small steps that are realistic and specific?
  • What do I need to do? What habits do I need to cultivate to align with my commitments? On a daily basis? Weekly? Monthly?
  • Who can help me? What people in your life could serve as an accountability partner? Is there anyone who might be interested in joining you in your commitment?

Make this year your best.

The small amount of time it takes to get clarity on the things that are most important to you can be some of the best time you have ever invested.

If you have some big financial goals for 2019 that you’re not sure how to break down, I’ll give you an easy small step you can take right now: call up Keen Wealth! My team of fiduciary advisors can help you align your money with your life goals to help make this year your most rewarding yet.

Bill Keen: Being clear about your reasons for making a resolution will increase your motivation. And the stronger your motivation, the more likely you’ll be to incorporate steps to hit your goals into your daily routine.

About Bill

Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit

Keen Wealth Advisors is a Registered Investment Adviser. Nothing within this commentary constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Keen Wealth Advisors manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed here. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  

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