How to Set Healthier New Year's Resolutions - Hope 103.2

How to Set Healthier New Year’s Resolutions

Setting goals for 2024? Remember that the point is to keep having new dreams and new goals so that you grow, Collett Smart says.

By Joni BoydThursday 28 Dec 2023Health and WellbeingReading Time: 5 minutes

According to a recent Forbes survey, the average New Year’s resolution lasts less than four months. I’ve definitely had my fair share of New Year’s resolutions fall apart within the first few months of the year and it can be incredibly disheartening.

We begin to see ourselves as having already ‘failed’ the year – and it may only be mid-February!

If you’re feeling a bit unsure about how to start the new year, and what resolutions to set, let’s take a look at some healthier approaches we can take, to set ourselves up for a productive, positive 2024.

Psychologist, speaker and author Collett Smart isn’t a fan of New Year’s resolutions. “I prefer ‘setting goals’,” she explains. “I suppose it’s just a different way of putting it, but to me ‘goals’ keep us moving forward and keep us inspired and engaged in life.”

Let’s take a look at why we aren’t keeping our New Year’s resolutions

“It seems this is because we might make these grand declarations at the end of the year where we aim for something a bit unrealistic,” Collett says. Whether we’re looking to make a sudden change or are aiming for something unrealistic or even unattainable (or even something that deep down, we know won’t work) our perspective on our New Year’s resolutions – or goal setting – can have a huge impact on our outcomes.

“It’s more than just a motivation or perseverance issue,” Collett says.

“We need to choose realistic and achievable goals that match with where we are at.”

Author of Atomic Habits James Clear agrees that to make lasting change, we must make small, incremental changes. “New goals don’t deliver results,” he says. “New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is not an outcome, it is a process. For this reason, all of your energy should go into building better rituals, not chasing better results.” 5 Common Mistakes That Cause New Year’s Resolutions to Fail (

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Source: 5 Common Mistakes That Cause New Habits to Fail, James Clear

5 things to think about, when setting goals for 2024

1. Are my goals realistic?

Taking all things into consideration, am I able to achieve this goal in a healthy way, or am I setting myself up to fail?

If I scale the goal back a little and make it more achievable, am I more likely to be able to consistently work towards this?

2. Am I setting goals that I want to achieve, or that someone else may want for me?

You’re the one who’s going to do the work, so you need to be truly invested in and passionate about the goals you set, if you’re going to see it to fruition.

Enjoy the freedom of knowing you have the freedom to choose for yourself, what you’d like to work towards in 2023.

3. What can I do to set myself up to succeed?

Whether there’s a tool which will help support you or a rewards system you can implement, take some time to consider how you can best prepare, giving yourself the best chance to succeed.

4. What small steps can I take?

James says that by taking small steps, we create an environment in which we can continue to grow – albeit slowly – towards our goals. And slow growth, he says is key to success. “You have to start with a version of the habit that is incredibly easy for you,” he says.

“It must be so easy that you can’t say no to doing it and so easy that it is not difficult at all in the beginning.” I’m Using These 3 Simple Steps to Actually Stick with Good Habits (

5. Which goals matter most to me?

“Don’t set too many goals for yourself at once,” Collet says. Consider writing a list of all the things you’d like to achieve and be brutal about deciding what actually matters most to you – rather than what you think ‘should’ matter most. Remember – you have the freedom to choose!

What about when it all feels too hard?

Change is hard – we all know that. But what about the early mornings when we really don’t want to get out of bed to start our morning routine? Or the temptation to allow distractions to stop us from working on that creative project?

Creating new habits is difficult – but entirely worth the effort. “MRIs indicate that new habitual behaviour is created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways which become the new default basis for your behaviour when you’re faced with a choice or decision,” Collett says.

James says that while we shouldn’t expect to fail, we should plan for failure.

“Take some time to consider what will prevent your habit from happening.”

Think about how you can bounce back quickly from setbacks and get back on track, he advises. How to Build New Habits: This is Your Strategy Guide (

What if we get to February and it all falls apart (again)?

Here’s the good news – all is not lost!

“You may realise that the goal or resolution you set was unrealistic, you aimed ‘incorrectly’, or your goal was what someone else thought you should aim for, rather than something you want to do or change,” Collett says. “Give yourself permission to move on if that is the case. Goals can happen at any stage of the year. I do not believe that January 1 is some magical day. It is just a date we use for ourselves. Nothing is stopping you from deciding that February 1 is the day you will resume a goal.”

Ever the encourager, Collett assures us that having a relapse is completely normal and not something to feel ashamed of. “Know that a relapse is a very normal part of a growth journey,” she says. “It’s not a sign of failure. What happens is, each time you get back up and take more small steps toward a goal, the time between any relapse gets longer until your original goal becomes your new habit or way of living.”

Top tip? When it gets difficult, ask for support.

“If you fall off the wagon, practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself in the same way that you would talk to a friend,” Collett says.

“Asking someone to support you and keep you accountable is also really helpful in sticking to the goals you set.”

James agrees – failure is part of the journey. “Top performers make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else,” he says. “The difference is that they get back on track as quickly as possible. Research has shown that missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measureable impact on your long-term progress. Rather than trying to be perfect, abandon your all-or-nothing mentality.”

And remember: “the point is to keep having new dreams and new goals so that you grow”, Collett says.

Hear more from Collett on her podcast ‘Raising Teens’.

Feature image: Estée Janssens on Unsplash