Breaking the Resolution Rut: How Starting Small Can Help You Succeed

January 1st, 2023: A blank slate and new opportunity lies around the corner. Maybe you slept in, dealing with the consequences of a late night spent with friends ringing in the new year and just wanted to binge watch Survivor and Big Brother all day. “Tomorrow” is what you whisper to yourself, as you remember all the promises you made to yourself during the last week of December, like that change in diet you were thinking of starting after the last dessert from the holiday table made you move your belt down a notch. “I’ll deal with that next week” you think to yourself as you are inundated with calendar notifications from meetings you rescheduled for the first week of January.  Or, perhaps you woke up excited and eager to begin thinking of all the ways you want to reinvent yourself (You go-getter! Bring that energy with you in February when the “old you” wants back in)! Either way, 2023 is here and it is up to us how we want to start it.  

New Year’s resolutions can be a great way to make positive changes in your life. The start of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past and set new goals for the future because the start of the year feels fresh and new, but they can also be easy to break if they are not approached in the right way. I realized this back when I was teaching 5th grade in 2021. It was the first lesson of 2021: The “new normal” created by the COVID-19 Pandemic was still being defined. Kids were anxious, parents and families were stressed, but 2021 felt like it was going to be better. The freshness of a new year served as the backdrop of my lesson plans that week. There was just one problem… I began to think: 

“How do I inspire a group of 10 and 11 year olds to think about reinventing and improving themselves?” I don’t even know how to set and stick to resolutions for myself. “Where do I even begin?” Suddenly feeling overwhelmed, my brain was racing and going down many different avenues, it finally hit me like an avalanche of snow: Start small. 

A question popped into my head as I thought about what I might be faced with during the lesson: “Set small goals? I want big results! Why on Earth should I start small?”. However, the more I thought about all the big goals I used to set for myself (i.e. go to the gym more, lose that weight from the holidays, organize my life, etc.), I began to realize this was to my detriment. These goals were not specific. At the time, they seemed achievable, but these goals were just too ambiguous.     

Finally! I had felt like I cracked the code that eluded me for so long. Start small! I eagerly applied this new way of thinking into a lesson for 5th graders. How can I make setting small goals sound exciting and lead to a bigger payoff to this group of kiddos? Seeking inspiration, I went for a walk around my neighborhood and saw the remains of a few snowpeople, born using the fresh snow we had been gifted with over winter break. Have you ever thought to yourself about how to start a snowman? It became clear to me that all goals, resolutions, and intentions were just like the base of a snowman. You have to start small, and keep adding to it until you have a strong and sturdy base! Bingo. I raced home to flush out the rest of the ideas racing in my restless head, and I am happy to share that with this community for consideration: 

1.Start Small

When you set unrealistic or overly ambitious goals, it can be easy to become discouraged if you are unable to achieve them. This can lead to a lack of motivation and a tendency to give up on the goal altogether. Starting small can help to build momentum and confidence and also help to ensure that your goals are realistic and achievable. Finally, starting small can help to prevent burnout and ensure that you are able to sustain your efforts over time. By setting smaller, more manageable goals, you can avoid overwhelming yourself and ensure that you have the energy and focus necessary to continue working towards your goals.

2. Be Specific

Rather than making a broad resolution like “exercise more,” try to be specific about what you want to achieve. For example, “I will go to the gym for one hour, three times a week.” This specific goal is more actionable and measurable than a general resolution.

3. Make it achievable

It’s important to set goals that are achievable, rather than setting yourself up for failure by making unrealistic resolutions. If you have never exercised before, it may not be realistic to resolve to work out for two hours every day. Instead, start with a more manageable goal and work your way up.

4. Write Them Down: 

It can be helpful to write your resolutions down on paper, as this can make them feel more real and tangible. You might even want to create a vision board or computer/phone screen background, so that they are in a place where you will see them regularly. I recommend using a tool like Canva to create this so you have constant visual reminders of your intentions and goals for the year.

5. Be Kind To Yourself

It’s important to be kind to yourself and not get too discouraged if you fall off track. If you have a setback, don’t give up – just get back on track and keep going. Remember that the point of New Year’s resolutions, goals, or themes are to make positive changes in your life, not to create unnecessary stress or frustration.

6. Enlist Some Help

One great way to help see your goals through is by sharing your goals with your friends and loved ones. Not only will they be able to support and encourage you, but they can also keep you accountable along the way. Another great idea is to find an accountability partner who is working towards similar goals as yours. Having someone to share your progress with and bounce ideas off of can be incredibly motivating and helpful. Just remember that you don’t have to go at it alone. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and help you reach your full potential.

My list of Goals and Intentions Set for 2022

My “Vision Board” for 2022

As an organization whose purpose is to help others be better we are hard at work setting our own personal and professional goals for 2023. As we look internally to figure out how we can advance our goal of providing our community with thought-provoking and stimulating learning experiences, we invite you to apply some of what you have learned today with us! If your organization is looking for ways to plan for the future and strives to be better, reach out to us at to get in touch with a member of our team. 

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