Four Fun Ways to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Stick

Caroline Ceniza-Levine '93BC
February 03, 2020

In a follow up to her piece, "Ten New Year's Resolutions for Your Career," the Columbia Career Coaches Network's Caroline Ceniza-Levine '93BC shares her tips for making your resolutions stick—and how to have fun while doing it. 

The beginning of the year is ripe for resolutions. On the career front, you might resolve to network more, be more active with your online profile, or get more involved in a professional association. You probably also have goals in other areas in your life—saving more, exercising more, spending more time with friends and family. So much more to do but with the same amount of time, energy, and discipline as before. Here are four fun ways to help you stay motivated and make your new year resolutions stick:

Make it a game

Rocketrip is a corporate travel company that turns saving money for its clients into a game. Rocketrip designs travel programs that award points redeemable for rewards whenever the employee saves its company travel money. The employees’ motives are aligned with the company’s motives so the new behaviors and choices stick.

How can you turn your resolutions into a game? What system of milestones and rewards can you set up for each of your goals, so you can build in motivation to stay on course?

Put on a happy face

If you're worried about waning motivation as your goals get harder to achieve, a study published in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience (and summarized in The New Yorker) suggests that the fatigue is not just mechanical (your muscles are too tired to run more) but also motivational. On the motivational front, seeing a subliminal smiling face encourages flagging runners to power through, even when the physical measurements suggest they are just as fatigued.

How can you inject more positive reinforcement while you’re working hard? Listen to an energetic song before your next job interview or big presentation. Select a happy picture as your desktop background. Find a short motivational quote or phrase that you can repeat as your mantra when you find your attention sagging.

Schedule your worry

Sometimes you are not just worried about motivation but a lot of different things and this worry is keeping you from concentrating or even getting started. Renita Kalhorn, a mental toughness coach, encourages people to schedule a specific time dedicated to worry and even put it in the calendar. This way, when the worrying comes, you can remind yourself that you have planned for this and will take care of it [insert calendar appointment here].

Is worrying or other negative self-talk a big obstacle for you? Experiment with scheduling it, as Kalhorn suggests. Or give it a fixed amount of time—set a timer for five minutes and worry away but when the bell rings you go back to work.

Stack your habits

In Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less, author S.J. Scott recommends grouping habits together so that you incorporate new habits into an existing routine. If you’re trying to drink more water, you might stack this new habit into your regular morning routine. Scott provides multiple suggestions for small positive changes that stack well with each other.

How can you group your new resolutions into existing ones to ensure they stick? This makes the new habit more familiar and routine. If you want to network more, perhaps you can expand your standing.


This post originally appears in my leadership column on Six Figure Start and Forbes. Image courtesy of Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a longtime recruiter turned career coach and media expert on the job market. She writes for Forbes and teaches professional development courses at Barnard and SIPA. She has coached professionals at Amazon, Conde Nast, Goldman Sachs, Google, Tesla, and other leading firms. A classically-trained pianist at Juilliard, Ceniza-Levine stays active in the arts, performing stand-up comedy. Learn more about Ceniza-Levine and the Columbia Career Coaches Network.