Reignite Your Resolutions: Use Positive Psychology for Real-Life New Year Transformation

Jan 23, 2020

Reignite Your Resolutions!

Use Positive Psychology for Real-Life New Year Transformation

by Lani Kwon, MA

(Published in Natural Awakenings Hawaii, January 2017)

     According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, approximately 45 percent of Americans make resolutions each new year, but only 8 percent are successful in achieving them. This statistic isn’t mentioned to make you feel bad but rather to draw attention to the fact that many Americans that make resolutions simply don’t have the information and tools needed to be successful. So, it’s important to know ahead of time what really works and what doesn’t.

     Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is/are the resolution(s) that I’ve been able to keep?
  • Which have I been unable to keep? Why?
  • Which would I like to “reignite” and revise?

     Below are some action steps based on positive psychology regarding how to achieve your resolutions this year:

I notice negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones.

“We typically find that positive, internal ‘self-talk’ drives positive behavior, and that the opposite is true for negative self-talk,” says John Duffy, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail. Avoid “all or nothing” thinking. Keep a journal of your thoughts related to your resolution, and consciously change any negative thoughts into positive ones.

I choose just one resolution to focus on each year.

Author Ray Williams writes in Psychology Today that you will be more likely to achieve your goal if you choose a single, specific life-change goal as opposed to having many.

I revise my resolution so it’s more manageable and realistic, and visualize and plan for obstacles.

Too often people will have a huge, unattainable goal and don’t plan for barriers in their way. Psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen says that “mental contrasting” is more effective than mere positive thinking. In this technique, you start by “identifying a wish,” she says, “and then you identify the best outcome if you fulfill that wish.” You visualize it, but you don’t stop there. You must also imagine any obstacles and then visualize overcoming them. Finally, you make an action plan.

I write my action steps into my calendar and/or planner.

Make a regular daily or weekly appointment with yourself to hold yourself accountable. Track your progress by using a chart or map, and give yourself credit for following up on your priorities.

I surround myself with loving, supportive friends and family and ignore the naysayers.

Don’t let others dictate what should be important to you. Choose one “accountability buddy” or even a few close friends and family members that you trust and that inspire you to do what’s right for you.

I don’t “should” on myself!

Use the words “want to” and “would love to” instead of “have to” or “should” to discover what resolutions really motivate you.

I join a support group, hire a professional counselor or life coach, and/or remind myself of my accomplishments when I’m feeling down. Clinical psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., suggests: “Write down 100 things you’re proud of, right down to ‘I get out of bed when I don’t want to.’ It’ll remind you how much willpower you really have.” Don’t feel you have to do everything on your own. Sometimes an objective group or professional is a useful guide.

I take responsibility for what I can do and try not to worry about events or other people that are out of my control.

It’s important to acknowledge what you’re responsible for and what’s not your kuleana (responsibility). Remember the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
(Prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, 1892-1971)

This said, take active steps to do what you can to help others and to help promote what is important to you. Speak up and take a stand for equality, justice and what you truly value.

I ditch deprivation and reward myself.

Instead of denying yourself for “bad behaviors,” treat yourself with pleasurable delights (this could be a walk on the beach or in the woods, a favorite meal, or a DVD) for small accomplishments along the way. Give yourself full credit for what you’re doing to improve your life.

Take these action steps and you’ll be successful in your resolutions! Share with friends and family that also want to be successful.

Lani Kwon, MA, founder of Creating YOUR Calling LLC, provides clients with step-by-step tools and resources for life redesign. She has over two decades of experience in crisis counseling, teaching, public speaking and writing. Lani is also the author of The Creating CoPOWERment Workbook. She is currently working on Creating YOUR Calling®: How to Discover Your Authentic Life Mission©, due to be published in 2021.


Works Consulted

1 “New Year’s Resolution Statistics.”  18 December 2018.

2 Norcross, John C., Marci S. Mrykalo and Matthew D. Blagys.  “Auld lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers.”  8 March 2002. 18 December 2018.

3 Tartakovsky, Margarita, M.S.  “10 Tips for Setting Successful Resolutions that Stick.” 18 December 2018.

4 Williams, Ray.  “Wired for Success: Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail.”  December 27, 2010.  18 December 2018.

5 Viskontas, Indre.  “How Science Can Help You Keep Your New Year’s

Resolutions: Social Scientist Gabrielle Oettingen Explains the Right Way to Think About

Your Goals.”  3 January 2015.  18 December 2018.

6 Selk, Jason.  “7 Habit-Creating Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Successful.” 8 January 2016.  18 December 2018.

7 Gordon, Whitson.  “Top 10 Strategies for Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick.” 

6 January 2016.  18 December 2018.

8 Rath, Tom.  “4 Minute Read: Lessons Learned: The Only Type of Motivation that Leads to Success.”  18 June 2015.  18 December 2018.

9 Mahoney, Sarah.  “10 Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick.”  19 December 2018.

10 Fowler, Lauren.  “Mindful Health Intentions for the New Year (and Ditch the Resolutions!). 7 January 2016.  19 December 2018.

11 Smith, Louise.  “10 Tips to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution.” 19 December 2018.


Contact Lani at [email protected] for more information.