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New beginnings: Why anytime resolutions aren’t a joke

Don’t feel bad if your New Year’s resolutions didn’t last long because the calendar is full of opportunities for a new beginning, a do-over, or a fresh start



April 1 is more known for practical jokes than setting new resolutions, but the first day of April, just like the first day of the calendar year, can be a new beginning for starting a health and wellness journey, working on a college degree, or cementing a new habit with your spouse, significant other or children.

Katy Milkman, a University of Pennsylvania professor and behavior change expert, describes new beginnings in her book, “How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” as an opportunity for a fresh start. A new beginning is the chance to adopt a new habit, like a daily exercise routine, or to discard an old habit, like doomscrolling on your phone before going to sleep.

New Year’s Day is the most popular new beginning on the annual calendar. You’ve probably joined family, friends and coworkers in setting resolutions for the year ahead. It’s common to ask others about their resolutions and to share our pledges on social media to lose weight, read more, exercise, or accomplish goals that were missed in the previous year. It has only been a few months, have you kept up with your resolutions?

Do New Year’s resolutions work?

Every year, by the end of January, news reports and blog posts begin their annual habit of shaming us for abandoning our resolutions. If you’ve given up on a January goal, you’re not alone. One study reported 64% of people give up their resolution within a month. Another study found that 80% of people stopped working toward their resolutions by mid-February.

While the numbers of people who stick with their resolutions are grim, having goals and resolutions are still worthy, and a whole industry of habit tracking apps, books and courses is available to help us meet our goals. Some of the common themes for success discussed in Milkman’s book include:

  • Set a specific goal. “I resolve to get fit” is too vague. A specific goal to walk 8,000 steps every day or run a 5K within 90 days is more achievable as you can track and measure your progress.

  • Write SMART goals. Personal and professional goals are easier to meet if they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timebound.

  • Share your goals. Accountability is a powerful motivator. Sharing your goal with friends and family or joining a group working toward the same goal can strengthen your purpose and give you a support network to cheer on your progress.

  • Stack small habits. If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, identify the small habits you’ll need to reach your goal. For example, start with calorie tracking. Next, bring a brown-bag lunch instead of buying fast food. As you cement the first two habits, add a new habit, like switching from soda to water.

  • Find or set triggers for your habits. Associate a new habit with other parts of your routine. I have a morning habit to exercise that is triggered by my alarm clock. I have recently added a habit to complete online training modules triggered by my kids leaving for school. When they go out the door, I press play on another module.

Any day is a day for a new beginning

Don’t feel bad if your New Year’s resolutions didn’t last long because the calendar is full of opportunities for a new beginning, a do-over, or a fresh start. What are resolutions you can set, habits you can launch or unhealthy habits you can end on one of these dates or life milestones?

  • Birthday

  • Wedding anniversary

  • Work anniversary

  • Birth or adoption of a child

  • Graduation from college or university

  • First day of a new job

  • Religious and seasonal holidays

  • Promotion to a new position

  • Changing shifts, stations, assignments, or partners

  • First day with new direct supervisor or department chief

Celebrate success along the way

Resolutions are more about the journey than the destination. Don’t wait until the end of the journey to celebrate. Instead, mark meaningful moments of success along the way by being proud of your effort, gracious with your own missteps, and kind to the friends and family who are supporting you.

Learn more about personal change

In addition to Milkman’s book, “How to Change,” here are some other books, podcasts and resources to help you succeed:

Email me your suggestions for other resources to form great personal and professional habits. Also, I am not joking, share with me the things you’ve accomplished by declaring a new beginning and starting something new.

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Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1, EMS1 and Gov1. Greg has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, paramedic and runner. Greg is a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Ask questions or submit article ideas to Greg by emailing him at and connect with him on LinkedIn.