How to make resolutions successful

December 08th 2023

The three questions to ask yourself that will help next year be better than this year


This is a time of year when we naturally tend to reflect on things as the year draws to an end and we plan what we want to do differently next year.  And as I am confident you already know, most people have given up on New Years Resolutions before January even ends. And in that failure, give their self esteem a bit of a battering. Not the best way to start the year!

There is clearly a motivation to change, so why do so many of us fail?

Here is some advice that I was given once that I have shared with many:

This advice led to three questions that I often reflect on at this time of year:

1. What are you most proud of from this year?

We tend to often just focus on the things that went wrong and look to improve them.  This however is missing a big trick!

By doing more of the things that went well, you get to enjoy more success!

So by thinking about what you are proud of, what went well, consider what went into that success and replicate that again, and again and again!

2. What went wrong that you can learn from?

Mistakes only become negative when nothing changes.  And that ironically is a key reason why most behaviours don’t change  – we just keep doing what we always did and therefore get the same results.  We didn’t learn!

So for things that didn’t go to plan this year, consider what you would do differently if it happened again – bring in hindsight.  People often say to me, “If I knew then what I knew now..” And this is a great opportunity to use that new knowledge to make a better decision!

3. What one thing is no longer serving you that you do not want to take into the New Year?

Another reason that many resolutions fail is that the change is too big.  Weight loss is often a common resolution and people go on massive changes, cutting out many different foods, alcohol, starting new exercise regimes…only to then find that the degree of change was just too big.

If however they decided the one thing they were going to do was to give up bread for example, that would be easier.  And having stayed with that and felt the benefits, they could then decide to only have alcohol one night a week, and so on.

I love this saying: “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time”.

The secret is to take one bite!  And then another.  And then another.

So start with the one thing that no longer serves you.  If it is an elephant, what one bite can you take that will start that change?


I often use the metaphor of life being like a book and this time of the year we are coming to the end of a chapter.  In next year’s chapter, many of the characters in your book will continue to be part of your story.  Some characters may not feature, new ones come in but ultimately it is YOUR story, so write it well.  And the story will be all the stronger if you learn from the past so that the next chapter sees you wiser, stronger and more resourceful – for that is what learning achieves.

Are you ready to ask yourself those questions?

Caroline Cavanagh is an anxiety specialist  and hypnotherapist in Salisbury, Wiltshire.  She is an author and professional speaker and would love to talk to you if you would like to know more about her work

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