5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Achieve New Year's Resolutions

Posted by:
Dennis Nottingham
November 30, 2019
6 minutes, 38 seconds
a person sitting in front of a window

Sticking to New Year’s resolutions can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. Through understanding proper habit formation, knowing how to create a goal, surrounding yourself with the right people, having the right mindset, and celebrating small victories; anyone can achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Habits Take 21- 66 Days to Form
a clock on a table

Many of us are ready to hit the ground running when January 1st arrives. We are in a new year, a new day, and are ready to tackle the goals we had put off in the previous year. A few days into the new year, we are consistent with our goal, but as the weeks progress, the goal we were just so ready to conquer is now a thing of the past. Why is this? One of the biggest reasons why people fail to achieve New Year’s resolutions is because they have a poor understanding of how habits form. These people believe in a sort of “magic switch”, that once turned on, they are able to do the things they set out to do. Habits are not formed in this way. It takes the average person 21 to 66 days to form a new habit. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, the habits of 96 people were surveyed over a 12 week period. The study found that it took participants 66 days at most to form a new habit. If you pace yourself well and understand the amount of time it will take to develop your new routine into your daily life, you are set for success.

  1. Create S.M.A.R.T Goals
a birthday cake

Smart goals are defined as:

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Achievable 

R: Realistic

T: Timely


Your goal needs to be specific and straight to the point. Having a specific goal removes any ambiguity about what it is you want to achieve. 


Monitor the progress you are making. This will allow you to hold a standard for yourself as the weeks progress.


Your goal should challenge you, but be something that you can achieve through hard work. Also, be sure that you can obtain all the resources you need.


Don’t be discouraged by the word “realistic”. Achievable and realistic go hand in hand. If your goal is achievable (no matter how long it takes) it is realistic for you.


Know how long achieving this goal will take you. For example, if you are learning a new language and want to be conversationally fluent in 2 years, calculate how many hours you will need to study each day. This sets you up with schedule that is curated for your success.

  1. Build Relationships with People with Similar Goals
a group of people sitting at a table

Being around people with similar goals is extremely beneficial. This environment cultivates confidence and encourages you to continue working towards your goal.

For example, if you enjoy graphic design, hanging out with other digital artists could help you network and grow as a content creator. These people understand your world and can introduce you to new concepts and help build your skills set. 

  1. Develop a “Growth Mindset”
a close up of a sign

In a study from Stanford University, students with “fixed” and “growth” mindsets were evaluated. Students with a fixed mindset believe intelligence is static, while students with a growth mindset believe intelligence can be developed.

Those with growth mindsets excelled because they saw effort as a path to mastery, embraced challenges, persisted when faced with a set back, found inspiration from the success of others, and learned from criticism.

Those with a fixed mindset avoided challenges, gave up easily, found effort to be useless, ignored criticism, and felt threatened by the success of others. Having a growth mindset with all things is beneficial because it is conducive for development. When tackling those New Year’s resolutions, push for a growth mindset for motivation and overall success.

  1. Condition Through a Spaced Rewards System
a sign on a wooden surface

It’s important to reward yourself for your hard work, but it should be through a spaced rewards system. This allows you to spend most of your time working towards your goal and less time for leisure.

A famous study from Stanford in the 60s called “The Marshmallow Experiment” studied children’s ability to resist a large fluffy marshmallow for 15 mintues. The researcher placed one marshmallow on a table and explained to the children that if they didn’t eat the marshmallow for 15 minutes they would be rewarded with another one when the researcher returned.

Children who waited for the entire 15 minutes were willing to delay gratification and deemed to be more successful in the future. Delayed gratification can be beneficial with your New Year’s resolution. When you work hard, small rewards can feel just as sweet.

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