Why you should set mini monthly resolutions instead of annual goals, using these 5 therapist-approved steps


No matter how motivated you feel to stick to your resolution on January 1, there's a good chance you'll struggle to reach a giant annual goal.

This isn't meant to discourage you, but as a therapist, I see so many people fail to meet their resolutions. And then, they blame themselves for being inadequate.

But the truth is, they aren't inadequate. It's just that big resolutions are really hard to maintain, so they often set us up for failure.

Why annual resolutions are difficult to achieve

Some resolutions are too vague. After all, what does it really mean to "be healthier"? Others lack action. "Feeling happier" isn't something you do. Plus, many resolutions aren't measurable. How do you know if you're actually a "better person"?

So it's no wonder why most giant resolutions get abandoned by mid-January. The "all-or- nothing" attitude that frequently accompanies a resolution can cause you to think a mistake or two means you've failed. And you might declare there's no sense in trying if you haven't made any progress by February. 

That's why mini resolutions are a better idea. Establishing short-term, action-oriented, reasonable goals can help you stay motivated throughout the year. Here's how to create mini resolutions that you'll actually want to stick to:

1. Determine your level of commitment to a short-term resolution

Setting a 30-day goal is powerful. You don't have time to procrastinate and there's not much room for "cheating."

You also have lots of options in terms of how much time and energy you want to put into this goal. 

You might set a goal that only requires a slight change in your behavior (like committing to going to sleep by 10 p.m. every night). This month-long experiment might help you see if you actually feel better when you go to sleep earlier. 

Or, you might decide to go all in for 30 days on something big — like working out two times a day. Making fitness your top priority for one month might really jumpstart your fitness routine. Then, you might find staying in shape the rest of the year is much easier.

Personally, I discovered this to be the case. After spending years doing cardio with little results, I decided to do some serious weight training to see if I could six-pack abs in 30 days. It was exhausting to make it happen, but keeping those abs is pretty easy in comparison. 

So you might also find that making something in your life a top priority for 30 days (like your budget or a relationship) might set things in motion so your habits are easier to maintain.

Of course, you might not have the time, energy, or desire to double-down on one goal. You know yourself best and the size of your goal should depend on what will best motivate you. If you aren't sure, experiment with different size goals and see what happens.

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2. Establish your monthly resolution

You can still maintain a big overall goal — like losing 50 pounds. But, you'll be more likely to meet that goal when you break it down into smaller, manageable chunks.

Establish a monthly goal — like walking 50 miles. Then, break that down even further by determining what you need to do every day to make that happen. You might decide to walk two miles a day, six days per week. Or you might decide to walk five miles on certain days. 

A clear plan for what you're going to do on specific days can increase the likelihood that you'll actually reach your goal.

3. Track your action

Find a way to track the daily action you're taking toward reaching your mini resolutions. It could be as simple as putting a checkmark on the calendar on the days you actually work out.

Or, it might involve using a budgeting app to track your spending if you're trying to get out of debt.

Think of this as your opportunity to collect data that will help you see the progress you're making (which can help you stay motivated) as well as give you insight into your behavior.

4. Review and assess your progress

At the end of every month, sit down and review what happened. What went well? What problems did you encounter? What do you want to do differently?

This is a really important step because it's your opportunity to learn more about yourself and the strategies that will help you succeed.

You might discover that by the middle of the month, you run out of steam and give up. Or, you may learn that you stay on track best when you have an accountability partner. Developing more self-awareness could be key to helping you get better at achieving your goals.

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5. Create a new goal the next month

You might decide to build on last month's goal. If you have a walking goal, you might add a few more miles to challenge yourself. Or you might decide that walking has now become a habit and you want to establish a completely different goal this month.

Perhaps you set out to save $500 or maybe you commit to reaching out to a friend every day. Creating completely different goals every month may help you work on many different areas of your life throughout the year — rather than just one big resolution.

Mini resolutions give you a fresh start every month. So if something doesn't go well, you get to try again or set a new goal. Establishing new goals, experimenting with different ideas, and challenging yourself every month could be the key to creating the kind of life you want to live.