New Year, New You: How to Set Realistic New Year Resolutions

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

As the new year approaches, many of us gladly embrace the practice of setting resolutions. The challenge, however, is not only in setting these resolutions but also in seeing them as long-term lifestyle changes.

In this article, we will look into the secret to establishing realistic new year resolutions using the SMART technique, as well as how to maintain and recognise the obstacles that might affect your goal setting capacities.

What is the SMART technique?

The SMART technique is a goal-setting method that can help you better organize and achieve your objectives. This could be used to set more realistic goals and measure your progress in 2024!

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Time Based

  • Specific

Instead of a broad goal like “get in shape,” consider specifying your weight loss goals. For example, you can say “walking for 30 minutes every day to get in shape”, or “incorporating strength training exercises into my gym routine at least 2 times a week”.

  • Measurable

It is important to set measurable goals, for example, don’t think of goals like “I am going to eat healthy this year”. Instead, consider measurable goals such as “eating a light meal with veggies, meat and fruits only at night every day”, or “drinking a fruit smoothie after waking up in the morning every day”.

  • Achievable

If you have a demanding work schedule, you might not be able to do things “once a day”. For example, if your last year’s new year resolution was to read every night before bed with the goal of finishing like 2-3 books per month, you can consider achieving it this year by setting a goal like “finishing one book per month”.

  • Relevant

Always try to set goals that are relevant to your personal or professional growth. Imagine that you have set a new year resolution to watch every episode of season 1 in “The Big Bang Theory” TV show, but in one weekend.” Sure binge-watching TV shows is great for weekends – to release stress and be calmer but it won’t really align with your personal or professional growth. You can do it any time so make sure the new year resolutions are relevant to you. Instead, you can try learning a new language, attend a music class, book reading club or even a yoga class.

  • Time-bound

One of the most important things we forget to do when setting up new year resolutions is not adding a time frame. We just say, “I need to meditate”. Instead, you can set up a goal like “I need to meditate for 10 minutes every morning after waking up, for the next two weeks”.

Do you need New Year Resolutions?

Now you know how to set realistic new year resolutions. But how do we know if we truly need New Year’s resolutions?

The best thing that you can do is reflect on your current state – lifestyle, feelings, thoughts whatever you want. Then ask yourself the two questions:

·   Am I satisfied with my overall wellbeing?

·   If not, what aspects of my life need improvement?

If you have identified you don’t need new year resolutions and improvements in your life – that is great!

But if you need improvements what should you do? How do you maintain those behaviours even if the goals align with the SMART technique? Well, the key is the Transtheoretical Model (TTM).

How to use the Transtheoretical Model to maintain behaviour changes?

Transtheoretical Model (TTM) consists of different stages – Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, Termination.

1. Precontemplation

You may not be aware of the need for change. Therefore, you can reflect on your behaviours for this to happen. For example, you can ask questions like “Do I need to drink more water?”, “Do I need to exercise more to lose weight” or “Do I need to practise being patient with my partner?”.

2. Contemplation

Now you know what needs to be changed, and is trying to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of changing the behaviour. For example, if you identified that you need to drink more water, then see what benefit you will have from it. Drinking more water might be reducing your headaches and dry lips/mouth.

3. Preparation

This is where you start to plan on how the change should be. For example, if you plan to do home workouts every morning for 30 minutes, then you need to research some fitness apps or YouTube workout videos. You can also get yourself ready with making a particular space to do the workout, and the necessary equipment such as yoga mats, dumbbells etc.

4. Action

This is where you put your plan into action with small steps each day. For example, if you are planning to reduce your stress, you can engage in mindfulness exercises such as savouring, or simply maintain a gratitude journal every day.

5. Maintenance

This is where you maintain the behavioural change and try to avoid relapsing as much as possible. You can also make changes to your original plans based on your progress, but you should always try to maintain the behaviour. Imagine that your original plan was to read for 30 minutes every day before bed, but with hectic schedules you find it hard to stick to the plan. But the solution is not to give up on reading entirely, instead try to at least read for 10 minutes before bed to maintain it effectively.

6. Termination

This means that the new behaviour, for example working out everyday for 30 minutes has become a permanent lifestyle for you. Now you don’t have to force yourself to do the behaviour, and it automatically comes to you!


Now you know how to be a “New You” in the “New Year”! We truly hope that using the SMART techniques and the Transtheoretical Model will help you set up realistic new year resolutions, and also maintain those behaviours/ habits for a long time. However, it is also important to remember that everything is not a linear process. There will be ups and downs, and obstacles such as lack of motivation, fear of failure and even your busy schedules that will get in your way. But don’t worry – you have got this! The key is to embrace the setbacks and learn from them. You will then be able to be a better version of yourself by the end of 2024.