New Year’s Resolutions – The Secret to Making Them Last

Prepare to make this year’s resolutions stick.

As someone who has been enamored with the thought of turning a new year and magically cleaning up all the personal behaviors that I’d like to someday resolve, historically I often didn’t make it past mid-January in reaching my goals. In 2013, that changed. I want to share with you the secret to making change last.

Change is a series of stages, not typically a single step

A person passes through a series of stages for behavioral change, each increasing the person’s readiness for the next stage. According to John Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model of Change, there are six stages: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance and Integration.

Why is this important? Prochaska’s research across the last thirty-five years showed that if an individual is pushed into action too quickly, that person will resist.

Maybe in years past, you’ve casually made some resolutions for January 1. After a few days, you’ll have a yo-yo  effect of some progress and some setbacks. After a few weeks of this feeling, you lose interest and get “busy” or happily distracted with something else. The little resolution goes back to the shelf to collect more dust before you  attempt the same thing the following year.

Add three key ingredients to your resolutions

Here’s the secret to making change last – it takes more thinking on your part than action. In addition to the above stages, a person needs to have an alignment of personal values, beliefs and intentions (through action).

This value-belief-intention alignment makes all the difference and prevents self-sabotage from occurring. Here’s how this works, and I’m speaking from personal experience and from the work of other trained coaches.

  • Personal Values: Making change that is tied to a value you hold is fundamental in seeing the connection between what’s in this for you and what you are/want. How is the goal related to you?
  • Beliefs: Seeing the old beliefs that are attached to those values will help you make a decision on what needs to change in your thinking, your attitude, not just in your actions to make the change. What do you believe about having this resolution? What does it take? What part of your current beliefs contradict achieving your goal?
  • Intention: This precedes any action. What is your intention? Are you going through the motions or do you work with intention to support a change, especially one may be difficult or out of your comfort zone?

In my book Finding Passion, I shared my observation on why this formula suddenly was the breakthrough for helping me make significant personal change:

“When the three areas of values, beliefs, and intentions align, there’s a far better chance for success. Habits develop more naturally, and you have less of that feeling of expending a lot of effort to get little results. While alignment doesn’t guarantee you won’t face obstacles, it does support learning and being flexible when those obstacles come in front of you.”

Once you have this alignment, the stages of personal change flow seamlessly and the change is supported by your choices as well as your actions. Alignment also benefits you when facing challenges and provides a strong front-line to fall back on when setbacks occur.

This year before you boldly blurt out a resolution, take that goal and review your values-beliefs-intentions alignment. Afterwards, you can better articulate the resolution with more clarity and better ensure that this year the results will be different.

Updated on December 10, 2013 and based on the work developed for Finding Passion, A Self-Discovery Approach for Navigating Career Crossroads, Amazon ISBN: 978-0992082307. Original post published on June 26, 2013.


JESSICA MANCA is a certified coach, author, entrepreneur and former management consultant. She founded Managing Mindspaces, a professional coaching firm, providing sensible career and life coaching services to professionals making life-changing decisions.

© Copyright 2014 Managing Mindspaces. All rights reserved.

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