Last year, exercise app Strava dubbed a new international holiday: “Quitters day”, when most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions. This year, it is expected to fall on Friday 8 January.

People have been making resolutions in January for thousands of years. Ancient Romans believed the god Janus had two faces – one looking forward; one behind. The month named after this god, January, was the time to look forward, forgive old enemies, and make resolutions for the future.

But, while over 60% of adult Americans make resolutions, research shows only about 8% keep them.

Experts suspect this is because our resolutions are too vague. Last year, the top two resolutions in Australia were to “lose weight” and “eat better”. Dr Marcelo Campos from Harvard University advises setting goals, rather than general resolutions. These are more concrete and easier to keep. Three tips for sticking to your goals are:

1. Make your goals specific. For instance, rather than: “I’m going to do more sport”, try: “I will exercise for 20 minutes for at least three times a week.”

2. Make it a habit. Work at your goals regularly and consistently. If your goal is to read more, why not set up a monthly reading group with friends?

3. Be realistic and set achievable goals. For example, if you’re aiming to eat healthily: “I will try to be vegetarian for January”, rather than: “I will never eat chocolate again.”

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A top psychologist shares five tips from the world of sport that you can use in daily life to help achieve your goals.


  1. Using the advice above, write down three goals and make a plan for success for the year. Do you need to break it down? Is your goal something you need to practise at or learn from scratch? Note how well you have done after a month.
  2. Many resolutions are about individual growth. But what if the world made a goal for 2021? Write down five suggestions of global ambitions. Can you do anything to make them happen?
  3. Last year showed us how unpredictable life can be. What do you think will happen this year? On a piece of paper, list three big news stories you think might happen over the next 12 months. Look at your list again this time next year.