As a new mom going into the new year, you might feel like the holidays haven’t given you a chance to figure this whole motherhood thing out, yet already, you’re supposed to be writing your New Year’s resolutions.
Even if you had a routine going before the holidays, Littles change a lot in just a couple of months and you might feel like you’re starting back at square one.
New Year’s can be a great opportunity to start pulling things together and get your life on track again.
But when it comes to setting New Year’s resolutions as a new mom, you might not have any idea where to start. What kinds of resolutions are even realistic and achievable? What should you prioritize?
My baby is 15 months old going into 2020, and I feel like I’m only just starting to get in the swing of things. While some things will naturally take you a while to figure out, you don’t have to struggle as much as I did!
Here is how you can set goals, solidify your intentions, and create achievable resolutions you’ll actually keep so that you start your new year as a new mom strong from the beginning.
Why Resolutions Fail (and How to Make Them Work)
Despite being an extremely popular international tradition, setting New Year’s resolutions has been served a substantial serving of controversy in recent years.
The common argument against them is that they just don’t work. The U.S. News and World Report documented a failure rate as high as 80%, with most people giving up by mid-February! That means only 20% of people stick with their resolutions each year.
Other studies have shown that by declaring your New Year’s resolutions to the world, by sharing them with other people, you’re less likely to pursue and achieve them (because psychologically, you’ve already gotten the reward your brain wants just by talking about your resolutions).
On top of the academic arguments, you’ve got a new baby or young child in the picture. And any mom knows, life is anything but predictable with a little.
So can you succeed with New Year’s resolutions as a new mom?
The answer depends on a few factors.
1. What is your personality like?
One of the factors that I believe contributes to the success of New Year’s resolutions is understanding your personality.
Are you someone who does best with an all-or-nothing/cold-turkey style approach to life changes? Or are you someone who performs better with a gentler, more gradual method where something is incrementally introduced or phased out?
For me personally, when I do something, it’s all or nothing. I’m all in, or I’m all out. There’s no in between for me. I have to have that shock to my system, like jumping head first into a cold pool, and I know that about myself.
Where I think people go wrong is feeling like a New Year’s resolution by default necessitates an all-or-nothing approach.
Say you want to lose weight, and so you decide the best approach for you is to cut out sugar. You make your New Year’s resolution to stop eating sugar, so on January first, you cut it out 100%. You feel like if you eat even a gram of sugar in the new year, you’ve failed your resolution and have to start ALL OVER.
If you’re a cold turkey person, maybe that works for you.
But if you’re NOT, you’re only setting yourself up for struggle.
News flash: New Year’s resolutions don’t have to mean you go all or nothing! If you do better with a gradual approach, then make changes incrementally!
It’s a simple mindset shift, but it can mean the difference between success and failure.
Know yourself. You don’t have to go all in on something just because everyone else is. Remember 80% of everyone else is going to fail anyway.
Back to the sugar example: if you know you do better with a gradual change, then maybe your overall resolution is to stop eating sugar, but your target is to get there by the end of the year. You lay out an action plan to reduce your sugar intake one food group or one month at a time, rather than cutting it all out overnight.
Your resolutions need to be tailored to YOUR personality in order to succeed.
2. Do you have a clear vision and goals for the future?
Another reason a lot of people fail with their resolutions is because they don’t have a clear vision with written goals to keep them on track.
Since weight loss is such a popular resolution, let’s stick with that example for now.
Jill decides she wants to lose 20 pounds this year. January first, she overhauls her diet. Awesome! She’s trying to eat healthier foods and resist tasty temptations that don’t benefit her body.
January goes great. She loses a few pounds, and she even starts exercising a bit.
But then the initial kick she got from writing her resolutions starts to fade and real life starts to seep back in. She takes care of a baby all day, manages 98% of the housework single-handed, her husband has long hours and doesn’t get home to help her until late, and she’s tired all the time.
Her diet starts to slip, she doesn’t feel motivated to exercise, and as a result, she don’t see the change on the scale she was hoping for.
Before she knows it, she’s given up (even though she’ll never admit it to herself.)
Why did she fail?
The real question is, why did she want to lose weight to begin with? Was it in pursuit of a long term goal (achieving a certain lifestyle), or a more short term objective (seeing a specific number on the scale/wearing a certain size clothing)?
Jill failed because she confused her GOAL with her TARGET. To Jill, they were one and the same: lose 20 pounds. She had no overarching, long-term goal; there was no deep-seated WHY behind her resolution to lose 20 pounds. Therefore, her target was her goal.
Then when things got tough, when she felt like she wasn’t achieving her target, there was no goal to keep pushing her toward the first target of weight loss.
Losing 20 pounds should only have been one marker on the path to achieving a greater goal in Jill’s life. She needed a clear VISION of what life would be like after achieving her long-term goal versus what her life is like now. Without that vision, it was too easy to settle back into the life she knows, even if it’s 20 pounds heavier than she wants to be because she doesn’t have the mental contrast, and she has no NEXT STEP beyond losing 20 pounds.
If your New Year’s resolutions are going to succeed, you have to have a clear vision and written goals to spur you onward when you don’t feel like sticking with it.
3. Are you creating an action plan?
A third reason most people’s New Year’s resolutions fail is because they don’t form a viable action plan.
Knowing your personality and the way you operate is essential. Thinking forward and envisioning long term goals for yourself is essential. But if you stop there, you will probably still fail.
If you decide to embark on a road trip, you don’t just pick a destination, hop in the car, and say, “Let’s go!” (unless you’re looking for a very specific kind of adventure that may involve never reaching your destination to begin with).
If you do succeed, you definitely won’t get there by the easiest or quickest path.
You can make your life a whole lot simpler by using a map. (Using the GPS on your phone is still a map.) You need to know what turns to take and what landmarks to look for. You also need an idea of the timeline, whether you’ll need to stop and rest, and maybe even research some additional things to do along the way.
If all you do is declare your New Year’s resolutions, but you don’t sit down and create a written plan for how you’re going to achieve them, you will probably fail.
Should moms bother setting New Year’s resolutions?
If you’re willing to put in the effort and create an actionable plan that aligns with your long term goals and accounts for your personality, then absolutely.
New Years resolutions can go a long way toward helping you to keep your life under control through the major changes of growing your family.
However, if you’re only setting New Year’s resolutions because it’s ‘the thing to do,’ you’re wasting your time and setting yourself up for disappointment.
Being a new mom is pressure enough without giving yourself another stressor that could cause you to feel guilty or inadequate.
If you’re going to do it, do it right.
Setting Goals for the New Year as a Mom
Before you ever write your first “New Year’s resolution,” you need to evaluate your long term vision. Do you have one?
I don’t just mean, have you thought about the number of kids you want or created a Pinterest board that depicts your fantasy home?
I mean have you and your husband sat down and articulated measurable goals for your family moving forward?
If not, this is the prime time to do it.
(If you need ideas on where to even start with that conversation, I’ll get to some suggestions soon, so hang tight.)
Why do you need goals before resolutions?
Without dreams and goals for your family, as well as your own individual life, all you can see when you think about the future is never ending cycles of laundry, dishes, poopy bottoms and errands.
That’s only going to leave you feeling tense/anxious/dissatisfied/restless/cranky/fill in the blank. Everyone wants something to look forward to, but without a vision, you can very quickly be weighed down the the seemingly endless monotony that motherhood can be.
When we enter motherhood, the immense responsibilities descend around us like a thick fog so that suddenly, we can only view what’s right in front of us, and forget that anything lies beyond.
The good news is, Mom Friend, those walls of fog are only vapor. You are not trapped where you are.
However, you need to envision your dreams and goals so that you remember what’s on the other side of that fog and have the motivation you need to forge through it, even when you can’t yet see further than a few steps at a time.
If you don’t create a vision for yourself, you will wander in circles in the fog and your surroundings will never change. You will be lost to this crazy role of motherhood, and it will overtake your identity.
To RESOLVE to do something is to commit your intentions toward a course of action.
Without goals and a vision, your resolutions have no direction. Why waste your time resolving to do something when you don’t even know what you’re trying to achieve, or if it aligns with the long-term vision for your life?
How to create a vision and set goals as a mom
Close your eyes and envision your forest without the fog. Forget about the dishes and the diapers and the laundry. What are the big next steps for your family?
Write them down as you discuss them with your husband!
Your vision will be the all-encompassing, overarching kind of mental image you have of the future, and it will be comprised of specific, attainable goals.
Some of the goals my husband and I have as part of our long-term vision are:
- Pay off student loans and be debt free
- Eventually buy a house and pay off the mortgage within 5-7 years of purchase
- Homeschool our children
- Travel with our large, homeschooling family
- Live a fit, healthy, and active lifestyle
On top of those components that make up our long-term vision, I have a personal vision for the lifestyle that, as a mother, wife, and homemaker, I want to begin cultivating now.
Personally, I want to:
- Generate a full time income with my online business
- Have the flexibility in my day to read more books
- Enjoy simple hobbies, like crocheting
- Promote a relaxed, orderly atmosphere in my home
- Spend time engaged in activities with my child (hopefully soon children) every single day
- Work out in a gym several times a week
So when I talk about your vision, I’m not just talking about where you want to be at retirement age. I also mean the vision for your now, for your general lifestyle. What do you want to feel like every day? What do you want the atmosphere in your home to be? How do you want your children to remember their childhood? How do you want them to remember you?
Your life will be what you make it, and your attitude depends on your ambition. Your family needs your passion. That passion will stem from your vision.
Here are a few things to think about as you begin clarifying your vision with your partner:
- What are the things you enjoy most that you want to do more of?
- What fulfills you?
- What are your individual personal goals (physical, social, financial, mental, career, etc)?
- What are your shared goals and family values?
- What’s your next step (the next big focus that you want to go all in on)?
How to Write Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep
Now that you have a vision, we can finally get to the traditional aspect of writing resolutions.
Here’s the key to writing resolutions that you will actually achieve: don’t confuse the TARGET with the VISION and GOALS.
Your goal should be a big picture component from your vision (like “be debt free,” or “run an online business that generates a full-time income”).
Your targets are the smaller milestones that bring you closer to your goal. (For example, if the goal is “be debt free,” targets might be “pay off credit card debts,” “pay off student loans,” “pay off the home mortgage.”)
Targets can still be a little bit general, but they should break down your goal into pieces that you can achieve. (If the goal is to be debt free, a target should NOT be “be better with money.”) Targets need to be clear and specific so that you can definitively say when you’ve achieved them.
Resolutions are very personal, so I’m not going to try to give you a specific formula for how to write the resolution itself, but think of each resolution as your statement of intent that claims a goal and locks onto a specific target.
Create an Action Plan to Achieve Your Resolutions
I hope after reading to this point, you have a pretty firm grasp on the steps you need to work through to be able to craft strong resolutions that will stand as targets to help you achieve your family’s goals and long-term vision moving forward.
However, writing those resolutions is not the final step.
If you are going to actually ACHIEVE your resolutions and stick to them, you now have to break down your targets even further into a tangible ACTION PLAN.
Let’s keep the “debt-free” goal example going here.
As part of the vision for your family, one goal is to be debt free. Your target for this year is to pay off all of your student loans. Your action plan might involve steps like:
- Create a budget every month
- Make the minimum monthly payments on all student loans every month
- Contribute an additional $500 toward the loan principle every month
- Take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course
- Implement a debt snowball strategy
Every step needs to be measurable, in other words, have a clear beginning and end. No steps like, “spend less money” or “eat out less” or “save more every month.” Nuh-uh. Don’t be lazy. COMMIT to specifics.
Establish healthy habits that will help you succeed
As you go into the new year, you may also want to consider healthy habits that contribute to a lifestyle that support your pursuit of bigger goals.
These don’t necessarily have to be laid out in your action plans, but they can certainly supplement your efforts.
If you’re going to succeed, you need to promote an atmosphere for yourself and your family that leaves you feeling in control, calm, organized, confident, disciplined, excited, motivated, etc.
If your home is always a mess, and your days are always different one to the next, and you never get into the swing of routines, you’re going to be overwhelmed, cranky, tense, anxious, unmotivated, disorganized, insecure, behind the ball, and possibly depressed.
Success is something you have to cultivate beginning with the most mundane-seeming details in your life.
In my first year as a new mom, I really struggled with finding a daily routine. Even in our small apartment, I never seemed to be able to stay on top of the chores AND take care of our baby, let alone find time to do things I enjoyed for myself.
While new mamas do need to give themselves grace and accept that this new season of life has a steep learning curve, I honestly should not have floundered to the extent that I did.
If you’re struggling with motherhood and home life, I KNOW what that feels like, at least on some scale.
For you new moms, I created a tool to help you structure your days around your baby’s schedule and form flexible routines.
In order to successfully pursue your family’s vision and goals, you need your days to work for you, not against you. You have GOT to get on top of the regular day-to-day tasks so that you have the time and energy for your bigger goals.
You can download my routine designer kit for free
I also write a guide for you: “How to Get Things Done with a Baby.“ It lays out my exact strategy of how I structure my day to meet my baby’s needs FIRST while still staying on top of my other responsibilities.
Some habits and routines that will support your goal-oriented efforts are:
- A homekeeping routine that keeps your chores under control
- A slow, present lifestyle that focuses on what’s important and valuable right now
- A morning routine that starts your day on a positive note and serves as a catalyst for the next portion of your day
- A budget that accounts for every dollar incoming and outgoing
- An evening routine that ensures both you and your littles wind down effectively so you can sleep well and wake refreshed the next day
- Regular efforts to learn new things that stimulate the intellectual side of your mind
- Physical activity and exercise
- Eating healthily and managing your insulin to keep your body strong and your hormones under control
- Journaling your ups and downs by writing out reflections and intentions
- Kid-free time for you and your husband (that sometimes doesn’t involve screens)
- Regular evaluations of your progress that account for where you are and where you need to go
This list is far from comprehensive, but hopefully it gives you a few ideas of what types of habits you want to establish early in the year to help you achieve your goals.
How to Succeed as a New Mom in the New Year
To recap, if you want to create meaningful resolutions that you actually achieve, you need to begin with an overarching vision made up of specific goals, break those goals down into attainable targets, and then generate a clear action plan with measurable steps.
Your New Year’s resolutions are your statements of intent regarding your long term goals and the targets you’re expressly aiming for.
Before going after your amazing, beautiful, crazy goals, I strongly recommend beginning with healthy habits and routines that get your daily life under control so that you’re in the right frame of mind to focus on your bigger goals and have the time and energy to go after them.
Most importantly, give yourself grace when you fail and don’t put undue pressure on yourself to succeed.
None of your goals are worth a baby’s diaperful of mushy poop if you and your family are miserable pursuing them.
You should have a long-term vision and goals you want to achieve, but you also need to live fully in the present. We’re not promised tomorrow, so don’t put so much emphasis on what you want your future to look like that you forget about your now.
Remember that when you write your resolutions.
What are some of your New Year’s resolutions for your family, and how do they fit in with your long-term goals? Leave a comment below!
If you found this post helpful, you should also check out:
- The New Mom’s Guide to Time Management
- 5 Strategies to Become a Calmer, Happier Mom
- Why We Need to Treat Motherhood as a Career
- Tips to Thrive as a Stay at Home Mom