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Attainable New Year's Resolutions

What you can learn from Marilyn Monroe's resolutions

Making resolutions for the New Year is not new. The practice can actually be traced back 4,000 years ago to the Babylonians. One hundred years in 1916, a Colorado newspaper cited that many people joke about making resolutions, but urged that it is better to make many resolutions and keep a few of them than to not make any at all. The adjoining comic strip displays a man in a tux telling another man that he would not propose to a single woman in the next year. The second man replies, “Who will you propose to—married ones?”

Not much has changed. People want to improve and set resolutions to make those improvements. Then they joke about failing. Yet have you ever thought long and hard about the resolutions you’re making?

Take a look at the top resolutions made for 2015. Maybe you had some of them on your 2015 list. Maybe you have some of them on your 2016 list.

Top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2015

1 Lose Weight

2 Getting Organized

3 Spend Less, Save More

4 Enjoy Life to the Fullest

5 Staying Fit and Healthy

6 Learn Something Exciting

7 Quit Smoking

8 Help Others in Their Dreams

9 Fall in Love

10 Spend More Time with Family

Now take a look at the top list of resolutions that people were unable to keep in 2011:

TIME (2011)

Lose Weight and Get Fit

Quit Smoking

Learn Something New

Eat Healthier and Diet

Get Out of Debt and Save Money

Spend More Time with Family

Travel to New Places

Be Less Stressed


Drink Less

I’m actually surprised by this last list because there are a few things on the list that appear easy to achieve. Like learning something new. Surely you can look back and realize you’ve learned something, something about yourself and maybe even something about someone else. How about traveling to new places? Just taking a different route to work could fill that one.

Like the wisdom in the 1916 article, my suggestion to you is to attain your resolutions. to do that, re-examine your list and make it solution focused and positive-oriented and frame it in a way that can actually be achievable. In other words, don't strive for perfection with your goals that you fail immediately. Also, try to aim for the positive versus avoiding the negative. The small wins of actually meeting your goals creates a compound effect that can (1) makes you intrinsically happier with yourself because you had success and (2) creates achievement momentum (and a positive reinforcing cycle). (3) It can also serve to decrease that dangerous negative self-talk that stealthily hums in the background.

With this strategy in mind, here is how I would re-frame the previous resolution list for 2015…

1 Instead of Lose Weight, make it “Take more responsibility for myself.”

2 Instead of Getting Organized, try “Be more reliable with my word and commitments.”

3 Instead of Spend Less, Save More, try “Consciously spend and consciously share.”

4 Instead of Enjoy Life to the Fullest, try “Be more grateful.”

5 Instead of Staying Fit and Healthy, try “Do at least one thing I will respect about myself each day.”

6 Learn Something Exciting, or how about “Learn.”

7 Change Quit Smoking to “Take more deep breaths.” (Okay, I do pray you can stop smoking)

8 Help Others in Their Dreams… this is nice, yet you could just, “Help others.”

9 Fall in Love… how about, “Appreciate all the people in my life that love me.” (Trust me, people love you!)

10 Spend More Time with Family… this is nice too, yet how about “Appreciate my time with family and friends.”

I hope you can see how the change is actually more attainable and less punitive. If you agree, then maybe you can try editing your own list—or making one if you haven’t yet created one.

Before you do, maybe one of Marilyn Monroe’s resolutions from 1956 can inspire you—“Keep looking around me - only much more so - observing but not only myself but others and everything - take things for what they are worth.” Ahhh, take things for what they are worth. Profound and true. Thank you, Marilyn.

Thank YOU, Psychology Today readers. I send you my prayers, thoughts and wishes for a wonderful 2016! Thank you for being there in 2015 and sharing your stories, comments and time. Big virtual hugs your way!