6 Steps to Turn Your New Year’s Resolutions into Action

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By Published On: January 19, 2021

This article is a 7 minute read. New Year’s resolutions are difficult to maintain. After thousands of years of practice, experts suggest several methods so you can keep up with your goals, like avoiding vague resolutions and sharing your plans with others. Read on to learn about…

  • The history of New Year’s resolutions
  • Demographics for NYE goals
  • Most popular resolutions
  • 6 steps to make your resolutions your reality


New Year’s Eve is the perfect night for celebration. Balloons, champagne (or sparkling grape juice), and dressy outfits, all leading to the countdown at the end of the night. 10, 9, 8 . . . the previous year might have been challenging, but the next brings a wave of opportunity and promise. A fresh start with lots of exciting goals to improve your quality of life. You can feel it. This year will be YOUR year . . . 3, 2, 1. Happy New Year!

Then, the alarm rings the next morning. Reality sinks in. Waking up earlier, sticking to a budget, exercising more, advancing your career, switching to a new diet — resolutions are a lot easier in the hypothetical. Studies show that 80% of people who make New Year’s goal drop them by the second week of February (Inc.com). Turning goals into action can be scarier and more difficult than people realize, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. It means you should dig in, make a plan, and ask yourself, “what’s next?”

Concordia University Chicago is dedicated to helping you accomplish your goals and believes in the optimistic and motivating powers of NYE resolutions. We’ve compiled all the information you need to take full advantage of the new year. Ready to become the 20% that makes it past February? Read on to learn the ins and outs of resolutions, as well as six steps to transform your goals into reality.

History of New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s celebrations existed long before New York’s Times Square ball drop. Ancient Babylonians were the among the first to acknowledge and honor a new year, although it was in March instead of January. Even 4,000 years ago, this transition from one year to the next sparked ambition for the future. The Babylonians made promises to pay their debts, and in return their pagan gods would grant them a favor (history.com). Granted, your current New Year’s wishes aren’t bestowed by pagan gods. Still, the blueprints for resolutions are there.


In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar moved the beginning of the year to January 1, a month named after the Roman god Janus. Janus had two faces, which fit perfectly for a new year. One face looking back into the year prior and one looking forward, Romans offered sacrifices to Janus at the new year and promised to be better people (history.com).

Whether this meant exercising to fit into an old toga, overthrowing Julius Caesar for the good of the Republic, or just writing more letters to mom, Romans took advantage of a new year to set goals.

Today’s new year’s resolutions are mostly secular, but they are crafted by a rich history from multiple cultures. Instead of making promises to deities, however, you make promises to yourself. While the wrathful pagan god might have provided more accountability, current day resolutions have more to do with self-improvement than religion.

New Year’s Resolutions Statistics

A Finder survey projects that 141 million adult Americans set resolutions for 2021, whether it was learning a new skill, making a lifestyle change, or accomplishing a short or long-term, personal goal. This study went on to define what demographics are more or less likely to make resolutions for the next year. The study found:

  • Gen Z is the generation most likely to set resolutions, with 92% of respondents saying they made a resolution
  • Rates of goals drops as age increases, with Gen Z having the most resolutions and Baby Boomers having the fewest.
  • Overall, 74% of adults set resolutions for 2021.


Across these demographics, more than 50% of respondents said they set a new year’s resolution. With over 141 million people in America dedicated to self-improvement, January 1 marks a nationwide surge of ambition, optimism, and hope.

Common Resolutions

What goals do people set for the next year? Resolutions can be long-term habits or something off a bucket-list, tailored to your unique needs and desires. Still, there is a lot of overlap in basic areas of improvement.



Health is the top category for new year’s resolutions. Throughout the years, people cite heightened fitness, increased exercise, cleaner diet, and overall better health as priorities for improvement. A survey of almost 6,400 fitness clubs in the U.S. determined at 10.8% of all gym membership sales take place in January (Bloomberg).

If you’re looking to help people achieve these resolutions as a trainer, coach, or health-professional, Concordia-Chicago’s online Exercise Science programs can give you the tools to support people while they accomplish fitness-related goals.



Saving money, creating a budget, paying down debt, and optimizing finances are other common resolutions for Americans. Almost 86 million Americans make resolutions about money (Finder). While some goals involve advancing or switching career paths, others zoom in on specific areas within finance.

It’s never a bad idea to make income and spend as effectively as possible. Concordia-Chicago’s Master of Arts in Grant Writing, Management and Evaluation helps fundraising you understand how to apply for and earn money for causes you’re passionate about.

Our Master of Science in Applied Exercise Science attracts fitness, sports and wellness professionals who run their own businesses, helping other people meet and beat their fitness and athletic goals. Our programs include business components to help them not only be better coaches and trainers, but also better business people.


https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1472745433479-4556f22e32c2?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&q=85&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=srgbSelf-improvement is a broad but rewarding group of resolutions. Whether it’s waking up an hour earlier, turning your phone off at night, allocating more time for family, or losing weight and getting fit, there are hundreds of personal goals you can set to reach your ideals of a happy and healthy person. They can be small, like drinking more water daily, or life-changing decisions, like returning to school to pursue your passion.

Over 95 million Americans craft new year’s resolutions around self-improvement. What’s your self-improvement goal?

How to Achieve New Year’s Resolutions

Despite so many Americans setting resolutions, only a small fraction follow through and accomplish them. A Strava study found that you’re likely to give up on new year’s resolution activities around January 19 (Inc.com). Reasons include a lack of long-term motivation, misguided expectations for results, and not enough planning (lifehack.com).

Here’s how you can avoid these pitfalls and stay on course to achieving your resolutions throughout 2021.

1. Be Specific

If your resolution is vague, it’s hard to define what success or failure looks like. It’s more difficult to achieve broad goals such as “be more productive” or “get healthier,” rather than focused goals like “complete three projects a week” or “lose 20 lbs in two months.” This allows you to work backwards. What steps do you need to take to complete three projects a week? Suddenly your resolution becomes clearer and more action-oriented (inc.com).

2. Plan the How

It’s not enough to know the what, you have to know how you’re going to execute your resolutions (lifehack.com). If your goal is to get three job interviews in a month, the ‘how’ of your plan might include polishing your resume, attending job fairs, and researching desired positions. This not only gives you guidelines to follow, but helps your goal seem more obtainable.

3. Practice Patience

With long-term goals, perfection is nearly impossible. Creating new habits can be a challenging process. Accepting minor setbacks and keeping your eye on the horizon will minimize mistakes. Erika Myers, LPC, wrote that it’s easy to slip into old patterns while solidifying new ones, and that you won’t lose bad habits in a day (healthline.com). Forgive yourself for missteps, so you can thrive on your larger journey.

4. Track Progress

If you’ve set up your resolutions in a a specific, measurable way, it should be easy to track the progress you’re making! Recording your progress can help you adjust for efficiency. If you notice you are more likely to run in the morning than evening, that’s something you can incorporate in your plan moving forward. Tracking progress also keeps you accountable. Finally, it can keep you motivated in the long run. Amy Morin, LCSW, suggests keeping a weekly log and setting benchmarks (verywellmind.com)

5. Enlist Help

Sharing your goals with someone, whether they also want to exercise in the new year, or just telling another person your plans can hold you accountable to your resolutions. In exercise, workout buddy will help get you to the gym even on the days you really don’t want to get out of bed (betterhealth.com). Outside of exercise, telling someone you admire about your goals can push you to achieve them (dataquest.com). Self-improvement doesn’t have to be a solo journey.

6. Define Your Why

This is perhaps the most important step to making your new year’s resolutions a reality. Defining the reason behind your goals keeps you motivated. Are you losing weight to boost confidence? Are you changing careers to follow your passion? Are you budgeting to afford a new house? Whatever your why is, write it down and don’t let it go.

There are dozens of reasons that new year’s resolutions fail, but at Concordia-Chicago, we are more interested in how they succeed. The Finder study that projected that 189 million Americans will set resolutions for 2021 also found that almost 142 million Americans believe they will achieve their New Years goals (Finder). Concordia-Chicago stands with those who make goals, believe in themselves, and strive to turn resolutions into action.


Stay tuned for the infographic version of this article.

Concordia University Chicago has been educating students for over 150 years. When you enroll in our online programs you earn the same campus-quality degree. Ready to advance your career in health and fitness with a degree in exercise science? Contact one of our Admissions Advisors to learn more.



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