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The Secret to Following Through on New Year’s Resolutions

January '12

During early January, folks pack my local gym to overflowing. You may not be surprised to learn that by the end of the month, the overcrowding has faded substantially – along with those “get-in-shape” resolutions. So what’s the secret to persisting with these annual goals we set for ourselves? I’m guessing you want to bring in something new this year – something you are excited about, something to invigorate your life, something to propel your forward momentum. What does it take to make these dreams a reality?

The answer is GRIT. Angela Duckworth, Assistant Professor of Psychology at UPenn has researched the development of this critical, follow-through quality. In a recent podcast, she defined GRIT as “the ability to persevere in meeting long term goals” and then outlined three ways to increase it.

1.  Outsource your grit. Duckworth recommends you adopt a long-used strategy of employing a coach or mentor, who doesn’t feel your emotions of frustration, or boredom and can hold a helpful objective view. (I might add that the structure of coaching, itself, naturally adds momentum to reaching your goals.)

2.  Deal more effectively with the feelings of frustration, boredom or confusion that are intrinsic to the learning experience. For example, if you fall down when skating, be able to say to yourself,  “I’m on the edge of the learning and in the growing part of reaching my new goal.” Realize you are in the process of creating a new habit. Duckworth suggests that If you do not experience these emotions from time to time, you are not learning, or moving forward toward your goals.

3.  Watch the timing when you make decisions about your resolutions. As Duckworth so academically states, “desynchronizing bad days from decision days is a good idea.”  (In other words don’t dump that resolution when you’re feeling down.) One strategy she suggests is to focus your decisions on Monday mornings, once a month, over a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Duckworth also referenced a study on improving self-discipline, which showed that when people make a plan to meet a specific goal, they are far more likely to accomplish it. (Don’t just make those resolutions; create a specific plan for implementing them.) She adds that an IF…THEN structure is very effective for planning. For example, “IF it is 6:00 pm on Wednesday, THEN I will go to the gym,” is better than “I’ll probably go to the gym on Wednesdays around 6:00.”  With the IF…THEN  structure, the time, itself, will serve as a trigger for actually taking action.

IF you decide to use any of these research-based tips and strategies to help you follow through on your New Year’s resolutions, THEN I’d love to hear about your experience: )

To further encourage the dogged pursuit of your resolutions for the upcoming year, I’m offering my newsletter subscribers a FREE  30/30 Consult (30 minutes for $30) during the month of February. To take advantage of this offer, simply send me an email (Contact Bonnie) and use GRIT in the subject line; then we’ll set up a convenient time to meet over the phone.

Happy New Year!


  1. alicE said on January 26, 2012:

    The other thing I like re the gym is my PT thinks 5 times a week, gym, home, etc. is enough

  2. Richard Li said on January 26, 2012:

    Exactly helpful. Thank you.

  3. Bonnie said on January 26, 2012:

    That’s great, Alice!


  4. Bonnie said on January 26, 2012:

    So glad, Richard!


  5. julie said on January 31, 2012:

    thanks Bonnie!!!

  6. Bonnie said on January 31, 2012:

    Good to hear from you!


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