Overwhelmed by New Year's resolutions? A life coach on 11 ways to make them a reality

Smash your goals for the year ahead.

A woman doing one of her New Year's Resolutions
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Instagram is afloat with vows to eat more greens, do a couple of home workouts a week, and take up a new language because, yep, 2023 is here, as are reams and reams of New Year's Resolutions.

Not a bad thing, by any means - goal setting and visualising where you want your career and life to go can be a really productive use of time. 

Fun fact: resolution setting goes way way back to ancient times. "In 46BC, Emperor Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar which declared January 1st as the New Year. From that point, the Romans would make promises of good behaviour to the two-faced god, Janus, who symbolically looked back into the previous year and ahead into the new one," explains life coach Sam Adams

However, penning too many New Years' resolutions can feel overwhelming.

According to doctor Becky Spelman, a psychologist at Private Therapy Clinic, New Year resolutions should be carefully considered and focus on obtaining more balance within your life. 

Adams agrees, adding she encourages her clients to see every day as a non-refundable day. "This day-to-day approach is far more engaged than writing a long list at the beginning of the year and never actioning them. I'd advise briefly touching on who you want to be every day and go from there."

But how else can you actually action these life goals without putting too much pressure on yourself and giving them up altogether? We asked Adams for her top tips. Keep reading as she explains the most effective ways to both set goals and reach them, too.  Don't miss our guides to self care ideas, reframing negative thoughts, and wellness planners, while you're here. 

New Year's Resolutions: 11 goal setting tips that actually work 

Adams stresses that we’ve all had a pretty rough few years, so remembering to treat yourself with kindness and prioritising self-care is important. "There has been a lot of stress, so it's unwise to put too much pressure on yourself," she shares.

1. Break the year down into smaller segments

If the whole year feels daunting, don't sweat it. You don't need to set resolutions for the whole year ahead.

"Maybe, for now, look ahead to the next three months. One big goal or even several can seem overwhelming, which just leads to procrastination and even giving up," she explains. 

Try this: Instead, try to write down your goals month-by-month, or even plan for the seasons of the year, instead.

2. Find your why

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your resolutions, it might mean you’ve overstretched, according to Adams. 

"Ultimately, being overwhelmed leads to less quality and often quitting, so I'd consider picking your top one or two and working on those, to begin with," Adams shares. "Keep real and, most importantly, be honest with yourself about why you’re setting them. The only person you have to answer to is yourself," she adds.

Try this: She advises taking a step back and thinking about why you've set those specific resolutions. Then, try and address how they will add value to you and your life.

3. Dive deep

This will take time but is worth it in the long run, the coach shares. "Give your goals some real thought - it's time to get real and honest with yourself," Adams stresses. 

Try this: Scribbled a quick list? You’ll end up letting go of them as quickly as you wrote them, she shares. "If you address what would add real meaning to your life, you're far more likely to make them happen," she explains.

Our edit of the best wellness planners will come in handy here. 

A woman writing down her New Year's Resolutions

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Trust your gut

It’s all too easy to follow the crowd, right? But the life coach shares that the only way you'll improve yourself is to get real about what you personally want and need.

Try this: Still not sure what that is? Listen to your innate gut instinct. "I believe that nine times out of ten, our gut is right. If it doesn’t feel quite right, then it probably isn’t," she adds.

5. Get ready to commit

Life goals take work and time - they don't happen overnight. Not ready to commit to change right now? Again, no sweat - come back to it in a few months' time, when you do. 

Try this: "For now, only choose goals you know you can fully commit to, then commit to your commitment," shares Adams.

For example, training for a marathon might be optimistic if you're a beginner, but using one of the best running apps to train for a 5km certainly isn't. 

6. Buddy up

Woman setting intentions

(Image credit: Getty)

Struggling with exercise motivation or just feeling like your 101 resolutions may not quite stick? 

Try this: Adams recommends getting an accountability buddy or someone who can help hold you to them. "It’s so much easier when you do things together," she shares. "Hence the saying, 'if you want to go quick, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.'"

7. Set target dates

Why? Well, by setting a target date to have achieved it, you'll keep your visualisation clearer in your head, according to Adams. "It’s been proven that time-specific goals have a much better chance of being achieved," she shares. 

Do be realistic when you set your deadline, though. Change takes time.

8. Stay positive

Positive thinking can be the key to success and so try your best to back your goals up with positive action, Adams recommends. "You hear a lot about positivity - which is great - but it’s passive without action behind it," she explains.

Try this: Do one small positive thing every day that moves you towards your goal, she advises, like sending that email practising an act of kindness, or having a positive conversation with someone about your achievements so far. Reframing negative thoughts will also come in handy here. 

9. Accept your failures as lessons

Change is never smooth sailing, and accepting that is important, shares Adams. "You’re only human, after all. Things can and will go wrong," she shares. 

Try this: Her top tip? Instead of seeing it as a failure, look for the lesson.

A woman doing one of her New Year's Resolutions

(Image credit: Getty Images)

10. Learn the power of reflection

It's an important tool and one you should utilise often, Adams advises, so try and remember to reflect as you go. 

"Reflection is simple yet hugely powerful," she shares. 

Try this: In order to achieve your goals, you’re going to need to reflect along the way. "When you have a setback, ask yourself why and what you can learn - that way, you’ll improve as you go and likely find it easier," she explains.

11. Don't give up

And finally, keep persevering. Now we're not talking about the initial, "is this goal really important for me?" phase mentioned above, but rather, sticking something out if it's a real-life goal of yours.

"Quite often, resolutions don’t work out. People can fall off the bandwagon quickly, as setting them is actually the easy bit. But studies do show some interesting findings. One found that people who set goals are ten times more likely to change their lives for the better after six months than people who aspired to do better but didn't make any." You see what we're getting at here, right?

Remember, you are your longest commitment and your greatest asset… Invest in yourself.

Ally Head
Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.