New Week, New Month, New Year: The Perfect Time to Start a New Goal

Service members take advantage of weight-room amenities inside the Cpl. Terry L. Smith Gymnasium on the Henderson Hall portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia.
Service members take advantage of weight-room amenities inside the Cpl. Terry L. Smith Gymnasium on the Henderson Hall portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Jan. 4, 2015. (Arthur Mondale/Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall photo)

This is not your typical New Year's resolution article. In fact, this January, the New Year starts on a Monday, which creates a triple protection to failing to achieve your goal.

Recent research shows that "Temporal Landmarks Spur Goal Initiation When They Signal New Beginnings.” In a study published in 2015, researchers found that people tend to start working toward a new goal when there is a new start to a week, month and especially a year. Birthdays are also such a day in what the researchers called "temporal landmarks." People tend to have a strengthened motivation to begin self-improvement goals on these landmark days, as the psychological dissociation produced by the beginning of a new timeline outweighs the person's self-doubt and fear of failure.

Though many people fail to succeed when it comes to New Year's resolutions, almost 40% of all American adults start a wish or resolution to improve some aspect of their life. The biggest age group of those who start a resolution is the 18- to 34-year-old group, making up almost 60% of young adults. The shocking statistic is that about 10% actually continue with their life-changing goals throughout the year and beyond, but most people barely make it through the month of January. The word "resolution" is lost from our vocabulary for another 11 months.

Most People's Goals Are Unattainable

It is great that so many people start down the road of self-improvement. The problem is, the goals they set for themselves are too many, it is too difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel and they lose their motivation of why they started in the first place.

My advice is to make the tunnel shorter. What this means is to have more subgoals. Instead of setting a massive goal, set smaller ones like:

1. Lose weight and get fitter

Instead of the standard "lose 50 pounds" goal, set a smaller goal of five pounds a month. This will help you tap into those temporal landmarks that help you psychologically stay on track. You can even break it down further and weigh yourself every Monday, looking for a one- to 1.5-pound weight loss. The combination of starting on the New Year and every month and Monday hereafter can help you tap into some of that initial motivation when you started down this road in December.

2. Start a cessation program

Instead of going "cold turkey," consider cessation programs in your area to quit unhealthy habits that affect your performance. If you feel you drink too much alcohol, smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products, don't try to quit alone. Addiction is difficult to deal with alone without support.

Tapping into a level of discipline will be a daily battle, but you can do it with the help of a buddy, partner and support program. In the military, there are many such programs. Learn more information in The 3 Most Widely Abused Substances in Military Life (and How to Regulate Your Intake)

3. Eat healthier

Instead of breaking out the Tupperware and starting meal-planning on Day 1, consider making one meal a day a more healthful option. If portion control is your problem, instead of fasting and starving yourself, place your meal on a salad plate and your salad on the dinner plate.

Eating salad is a starting point, and limiting the size of the food each meal is the other, but you still need to eat smarter choices like fruits, vegetables, lean meats and proteins, and healthy fats. Try that for a month and see whether you notice improvements in how you feel, your energy levels at work and home and-or you lost weight.

4. Don't have multiple goals

The last thing you need to do is focus on stopping smoking, drinking alcohol, eating more nutritiously, and working out every day to get fit and lose weight. This is a recipe to fail by February.

Instead, focus on one per month or every quarter even. Once you are making progress with the first month's goal, start working toward the next, then the next. For instance, I often start people focused on the fitness goal and finding 30 minutes a day to devote to it. This will typically start the ball rolling toward drinking more water and eating healthier without even really focusing on it. Then consider the cessation program after a few months if you need one.

The tips above will help you maintain your motivation longer and build the needed discipline to continue. Because you built this daily habit, you are now a little more disciplined than before you started down this journey to self-improvement.

So why not start on the first Monday, on the first day of the month and the first day of the New Year? It seems like a logical beginning to a new and improved you. Also, the holidays are tough on us all, so work to enjoy them guilt free for the rest of December. But start getting your mind right to triple down on the "New Week, New Month and New Year" landmark in 2024.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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