New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

How to keep New Year's resolutions

Denmark is known for perennially being one of the happiest countries in the world. Why are the Danes so happy? Sure, they have a fairly short work week and enviable social safety nets, but what’s the kicker? They keep their expectations low. With lowered expectations, when goals are met, you’re happy. This is the same logic I apply when making my New Year’s resolutions. I always make a New Year’s resolution and the last several years have been able to actually keep them. Want to know the secret to making New Year’s resolutions you’ll actually keep? I do what the good people of Denmark do and keep my resolution expectations low.

If there’s one thing I know about making New Year’s resolutions it is that in January, everyone has the best of intentions. But, as the month or the year goes on, those resolutions fall off the to-do list of life because it’s hard to keep resolutions especially if they’re unrealistic or the bar was set too high. Lower the bar and make your resolutions something you can do every day. If you miss a day, remind yourself there’s always tomorrow.

Workout with walking sticks
My walking sticks, which are repurposed ski poles, provide a good upper-body workout.

New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

Here are my very simple, lowered expectation, New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Go for a walk every day: even on days when I don’t workout (meaning put on workout clothing and stretch for 20 minutes before I head out the door), go outside and walk around the block. I live on a very long block so going around it is about a half-mile. Going for a walk every day was easier to do when my kids were in elementary school and the daily trek to/from school was my additional walk. Even with a regular workout routine, I find that my brain and attitude need fresh air every single day and not just on my exercising days.
  2. Brush/floss teeth after lunch: after lunch, I do my regular night-time routine of flossing, brushing, and using a fluoride rinse. Not only is my mouth in better shape than it’s been in years, but when I brush my teeth after lunch, it keeps me from snacking. I’ve determined it’s okay to be hungry sometimes and after school snacking or sampling foods while at the grocery store or at Costco can really add to my caloric intake. If I’ve brushed my teeth, I don’t snack. Likewise after dinner. If I brush my teeth directly after dinner, I’m too lazy to do them again right before bed and therefore don’t eat or snack any more that night.
  3. No swearing: I have a potty mouth. You read that correctly. I really watched my cursing when my kids were little but now that they’re older, I’m not as good about it. When I hit my head on the range hood in the kitchen (which happens often for some reason), my reaction is not “oh, shoot” it’s something else. Or, if I don’t follow my own advice of “measure twice, cut once” when sewing or using the miter saw and I have to start thinking about repurposing again, there are a few choice phrases that come flying out of my mouth. Yes, I control what comes out of my mouth when I need to but sometimes I just let those naughty words fly!

New Year's resolution

Those are my New Year’s resolutions from 2012 and they’ll be the same ones for the upcoming year as well. OK, so they’re not earth shattering but they’re something I can build on. With these lowered expectations, when my daily resolutions are met, I feel happy. On days that I stay in my pajamas all day, without brushing my teeth, and I drop a brick on my toe, look out! Fortunately, they don’t happen very often but when they do, I remind myself that tomorrow is another day to keep all of my New Year’s resolutions.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you have a secret to keeping them?

Go Gingham related links:

The biggest stay the same – the reality show I’m pitching!
How to make walking poles – they’re re-purposed ski poles
I love to hula hoop as part of my workout, too – hooping fool love!
Exercise at home – and skip the gym
Our family did a group resolution and we still do it: technology free Sundays

More about expectations and happiness:

Gretchen Rubin, author, mom, and fellow blogger, writes about happiness
The New York Times opinion piece about “Lowered Expectations” by David Weiner
The World’s Happiest Countries” from Forbes

18 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

  1. Sara, I need to get through Christmas first! 🙂

    I’m not so sure about the idea of lowering expectations as a key to happiness, but I really like the idea of setting SMART goals–and the R stands for “realistic.”

    (Oh, and knowing that you’ve got a potty mouth makes me even more sure we could be friends. :-))


    1. Rita, me too on the getting through Christmas, first!
      Realistic goals are the way to go – that and calling out the resolution so that my kids check in with me on it. They’re good about reminding me or asking me if I’ve done my “3” things for the day. I secretly think it’s their way to bust MY chops about something. Teens!
      Yes, let’s get together and swear up a storm at the Goodwill bins 😉


  2. This is great! I like your walking sticks and motivation. I love to walk and honestly do not do it everyday. I have excuses that I will not type because one of the things I am working on, is not using excuses. SO thank you:). I am going to walk more. period.


    1. Fabiola, THAT is good resolution, too. Not making excuses. I also like Michelle’s idea below – having a theme for the year.
      Good luck with the walking more – it’s so good for us. We all need to stretch our wings every day.
      Thank you for leaving a comment. Happy New Year!


  3. I love this! I’ve been guilty of making resolutions and not keeping them, so I love the idea of making less and doing them. It’s also nice to know I’m not alone in the potty mouth department. I was also much better when our son was young, but since he’s 22, I totally fail.


    1. Diana, I just try and do what I say I’m going to do and one of those is keep my resolutions. Sometimes just saying out loud helps, too.
      And yes, for some reason it was easier to watch my mouth when kids were younger – now the teens get after me! 🙂
      Thanks, Diana! Happy New Year.


  4. This made me smile. I have consistently low expectations of myself, and even then, I give myself a little slack. I also have a potty mouth. It’s another coping mechanism.

    But the walk around the block.. That would be about a 2 day walk out here. 🙂


    1. Heidi,
      I can only imagine the walk around your block! Thankfully, in the city, we have blocks with sidewalks and I can do it rather quickly. Well, that is unless I run into a neighbor and then it can go on and on – we need to chat and catch up on neighborhood news. It’s my favorite form of “twitter” when I go walking and chatting about!
      Happy New Year, my potty mouth blog friend 🙂


  5. My fun-loving friend and I have been making up yearly “themes” to guide our actions during the last 6 or 7 years. The theme must (roughly) rhyme with the year – wacky, huh?
    “Off the Shelf in 2012” was this year and honestly, I really finished alot of things that I had been putting off (or “on the shelf”), and did some things that I was “saving” for later/a special occassion.
    Next year’s theme was chosen last weekend at our Wine Club holiday party – this is where the best themes are created: “Fit to be seen in 2013!” It is going to mean a little something different to each person, but revolves around fitness. Happy New Year!


    1. Michelle, I love this idea of a theme for the year. Really, it’s very clever and helps put a good spin on what would normally be mundane tasks – okay probably not your tasks but MY tasks!
      The different take for each person is key, too. Every person does have different goals and making it personal instead of generic is a great idea.
      Thanks, Michelle! Happy New Year to you, too.


  6. Great point, Sara. I think you can also make a big goal more realistic by breaking it into manageable chunks and tackling one at a time. I also love Michelle’s idea to have a theme – that makes a lot of sense and guides the everyday decisions toward a goal. Baby steps!


    1. Annie, I love Michelle’s idea, too. I also am a big believer in breaking things down into little chunks and then accomplishing them. Baby steps is right! That’s the only way to make something a habit is to break into smaller steps – and keep the bar low. Thanks, Annie.


  7. Sarah, you make me laugh!

    I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. What I DO do is to commit myself to maintaining a (mostly) healthy lifestyle. I lost 60 pounds 5 years ago (yay Weight Watchers) and since then I have made a monthly commitment to weighing in with them and staying within 2 pounds of my goal weight, and let me tell you, I have had months where I have barely squeaked by! It was a lengthy process for me to get to the point of eating healthy portions and exercising regularly, and it’s all my little brain can do to try to maintain what I have achieved.


    1. Kris, (shouting this out to you) way to go! I’m so impressed and you’ve stuck with it. Committing to a healthy lifestyle is the best New Year’s resolution and life long goal around. Congratulations, Kris. Keep up the good work!
      Happy New Year, too.


  8. I’m with you about the New Year’s Resolutions! I’ve actually started keeping to mine better and better each year and that’s because I’ve made them easier and easier. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? Step by step I’ll eventually get there.

    One of my resolutions for this year is literally to take my vitamins everyday. How easy is that? I chronically forget and look up to see that I haven’t taken them in a year. Well, this year, hopefully I’ll conquer this easy resolution!


    1. Melissa, I think that’s an excellent resolution. Yes, take those vitamins everyday! Great job and no, I don’t think that’s easy at all to remember. Here’s I remember to take mine….
      I have a small tray that has 4 small cups on it (one of them is actually a shot glass!) and for dinner, one of us puts vitamins/fish oil in each of the cups and we bring it to the dinner table. That’s how our family “remembers” is with the tray and the cups. Then there’s usually someone who forgets and we say, “who didn’t take their vitamins?” But, since we all have a different cup, we know the answer. Easy and keeps us taking them!
      Good luck! I hope you have a great New Year, too.


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