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Resolve to achieve this year’s resolutions with manageable strategies

Fast facts

    • Setting realistic goals makes achievement more likely
    • Fulfill resolutions with small steps, gradual changes

(520 words)

LITTLE ROCK – The New Year has just dawned, and that new gym membership has only been used two, maybe three times. With January’s short days and long, cold nights, it can be hard to maintain resolutions made Dec. 31. Making and keeping resolutions, however, doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing pursuit.

“It’s in our nature as Americans to set lofty goals,” said Lisa Washburn, assistant professor of health at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. “We can achieve big goals, but we also have to be realistic. Small steps are key to reaching big goals. Anyone can achieve his or her resolution by setting realistic, incremental steps leading to larger goal that may take longer to achieve.”

Resolution: lose weight

Take, for example, losing weight. For many, losing weight means cutting calories and working out diligently every day. This scenario is hard to stick with because it robs the resolver of any pleasure in its pursuit. To make the resolution more likely to be achieved, Washburn recommends setting smaller objectives that move toward the main goal.

“If you want to lose weight, focus on one change at a time to your diet and exercise habits,” she said. “If you don’t eat breakfast, set a goal to eat breakfast every day for a week. Figure out the barriers to eating a healthy breakfast – a lack of time, maybe – and figure out how to work around that by choosing quick, easy-to-prepare foods you can eat on the go. When you’ve reached that goal and eating breakfast is a habit, choose another small change to tackle.”  

This realistic approach is easier to sustain and more likely to keep the resolver on track to achieving his or her overall goal. Similarly, focusing on one or two resolutions rather than revamping your entire life is more manageable and attainable.

“To some degree, we are all overwhelmed with responsibilities and obligations. We are all busy,” Washburn said. “Often that means we put ourselves at the bottom of the priority list. If you want to make a change in your life, set one or two goals, think through what success looks like, and figure out a way to overcome possible barriers. Small changes to your daily routine are easier to make and won’t require you to rearrange your life.  Success comes from making the new behavior fit in with other responsibilities, not the other way around.”

Setting intermediate goals and working with a buddy will help tremendously when maintaining resolutions.

“Setting a goal for the end of a year is too far in the future and not specific enough,” Washburn said. “Set a goal for a week, then a month, then three months, then six months. You’ll build on your successes, and your buddy will keep you accountable and provide support when you are discouraged. Imagine achieving your goal and looking back on it at the next New Year’s Eve to toast your success.”

For more information about making and keeping healthy New Year’s resolutions, see Small Steps to Health and Wealth at or or contact your county extension office  to learn more.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


By Kelli Reep 
For the Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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