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New Year’s Resolutions: Small Steps to Big Results

By Maura Koutoujian, JMA Career Coach

While 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% successfully achieve those goals. How can you beat the odds and make this the year you finally check those resolutions off your list?

Success comes from intention and execution. Goals rarely fail due to a lack of commitment or enthusiasm; they fade away for lack of a compelling vision with a specific, well-designed action plan. In fact, University of Scranton research suggests that people who set explicit goals are 10 times more likely to achieve them than those whose goals are less specific.

Not sure where to start? Read on to learn how to set yourself up for year-long success.

Create Your Wellness Vision

When thinking about your New Year’s resolutions, chances are that many of them are health-focused: I want to lose 20 pounds. I want to exercise more regularly. I want to stop smoking. But what about the other areas of your life? Try to think more holistically and consider an overall wellness vision that encompasses your emotional, intellectual, spiritual, relationship, career and financial well-being as well.

Before setting your 2014 goals, spend some time creating your vision of your best self. Imagine that it’s 12 months from now and you are reflecting on the year 2014. Paint a mental picture of who and where you are by considering the following questions. 

How do you look?
How do you feel?
What have you accomplished?
What have you experienced less of (e.g., anxiety, time spent commuting)?
What have you experienced more of (e.g., patience, time spent with family)?
What does your career look like? How does your work make you feel?
Have you formed any new or strengthened any existing relationships?
How do you feel about your finances? Have you made any changes?
Have you learned anything new?
Have you established any healthy new habits (or broken any unhealthy ones)?
Where have you traveled?


As you develop your wellness vision, think about:

Values: Who do I want to be?
Outcomes: What results do I want to achieve?
Behaviors: What activities do I want to do consistently?
Motivators: Why does this matter to me right now?
Strengths: What talents, strengths and abilities will I draw upon?
Challenges: What challenges will I overcome?
Supports: What support teams and structures will I put in place?


Next, write your vision in the present tense and make it as specific as possible

“I am” is far more impactful than “I want to be.” For example, instead of:

“I want to eat better and get healthier; I want to exercise more regularly; I want to find a new job; I want to practice more self-acceptance.”

 Rephrase it to say:

“I eat a serving of fruit or vegetables with each meal; I walk 2 miles each day and have more energy; I am 15 pounds lighter and shopping for new clothes; I have a new IT project management job at a company whose values and mission mirror my own; I spend less than an hour commuting each day; when I start to beat myself up for making a mistake, I instead turn my focus to what I have done well.” 

Make It Actionable

Now it’s time to lay the groundwork for turning your wellness vision into a reality – and this is where most of us inevitably falter. We stop short of translating our vision into smaller, actionable goals. Avoid another year of unfulfilled resolutions by following these guidelines:

 Break It Down

For each goal within your vision, identify the specific steps needed to accomplish it. For example, in order to land a new IT project management job at a company whose values and mission mirror your own, your smaller, actionable goals could be:

  1. Update my resume and LinkedIn profile.
  2. Spend 30 minutes a day for 3 weeks researching companies that share my values.
  3. Reach out to my network to find someone with a contact at my desired companies.
  4. Attend industry events to try to meet people at my desired companies.
  5. Set up informational interviews with people in the industry or at targeted companies.
  6. Spend 30 minutes each day searching job postings, applying to positions and continuing to network.


Maura Koutoujian is a JMA career coach with 17 years of entrepreneurial business experience, including brand creation, customer service and operations oversight. She specializes in helping clients discover the career that best aligns with their talents, values and passions, as well as develop a wellness vision and action plan to create the life that they want.


  • Be realistic. Consider your real and/or perceived obstacles to your success (e.g., time, desire, resources). Identify and own your strengths and the resources you have at your disposal to minimize or eliminate your obstacles and resistance.
  • Assign a due date. Without detailing a date for each of your specific steps, they are just floating around in your mind indefinitely with no direction. Providing yourself with the additional structure of a time line will help ensure successful completion.
  • Limit your number of goals. While it’s good to challenge yourself, making too many resolutions can be overwhelming and set you up for failure. In general, three to five is an ideal number to aim for.
  • Find an accountability buddy. Set up regularly scheduled calls or coffee dates with a family member or friend to discuss your progress toward your goals and any challenges you encounter.
  • Celebrate small successes and accomplishments. We spend most of our lives on the journey toward our goals, so why not enjoy yourself along the way? And when you get frustrated, rather than focusing on what you haven’t yet achieved, acknowledge your small wins.
  • Be flexible. We grow and our circumstances change, so it’s important to recognize when shifts are really opportunities.

In the end, small changes lead to big results. By  investing some time reflecting and planning at the beginning of 2014, you’ll be on your way to your best year yet.



[Jody Michael Associates] leads you to achieve what you believed was impossible. This process can be difficult, but the reward is beautiful.”

-- Zackary A. Prince, Paralegal/Writer
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