New Year’s resolutions can change your life forever. Don’t let pundits tell you otherwise.

As the New Year approached, I saw and read many articles on why New Year’s resolutions never work and are best avoided. This, of course, is nonsense.

New Year’s resolutions (and goal setting in general) work for those who are actually motivated to achieve the desired results and work hard and diligently to meet their goals..

Since 2010, I have been posting my resolutions on my blog and charting my progress month by month. While my New Year’s resolution success rate stands at 49% (I actually think this good considering the loftiness of the goals I set for myself), I think one of the more significant impacts of my New Year’s resolutions has been the lifestyle changes that have resulted from the pursuit of these goals.

Here are a few examples:


In 2010 I resolved to floss every day. I have not missed a day of flossing since. It’s simply become something I do.


Incidentally, if you would like to start flossing, I suggest that you place the floss in the shower. Once you start flossing regularly, it takes about 30 seconds to floss well. Placing it in the shower creates incentive:

Who would pass up an extra 30 seconds in the shower in order to be productive and extend your life (people who floss live longer)?

I gave this advice at a book talk once (in response to a question about how routines make me more productive), and about six months later, a woman wrote to me to say that while she appreciated everything about my talk, the advice on flossing had changed her life. She’s flossed every day since my talk, and her gums have never been so healthy and pain free.

It’s not hard. You, too, can be a dental nerd like me. ____________________________________

I also established the goal of losing 10 pounds in 2010, and I have since lost 45 pounds and entirely changed the way that I live.

  • I exercise almost every day.
  • I know the calorie count of almost every food item that I eat.
  • I’ve permanently reduced meal portions.
  • I look better, feel better, and have more energy than ever before.

That single goal in 2010 has changed the way I eat, exercise and live ever since.


In 2011, I resolved to do at least 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups a day. While the conditions of this goal have changed over the years (more individual repetitions with days of rest in between), sit-ups and push-ups have become a part of my daily routine.


In an effort to reduce my cholesterol, I resolved to eat three servings of oatmeal a week in 2011. Since then I continue to eat at least that much oatmeal each week as part of my work day lunch. It’s a perfect midday meal: Easy to make, filling, low in calories and delicious. And as a result, my cholesterol has remained within the guidelines that my doctor set for me.


In 2011, I resolved to participate in a Moth event as a storyteller, either at a live show or on their radio broadcast. Since my performance in my first Moth StorySLAM in July of 2011, storytelling has become an enormous part of my life. I’ve performed in 25 Moth events since then, including for a Mainstage audience of 1,500 people in Boston last year. I’ve been featured on The Moth Radio Hour, a nationally syndicated radio show, as well as their weekly podcast.

All of this began with a single performance on a single Moth stage.

I’ve also performed at a number of other storytelling shows in New York, Boston and Hartford and spoken at two TED conferences.

In 2013, my wife and I co-founded Speak Up, our own storytelling organization. We produced three shows in 2013 and hope to produce twice that many in 2014. This month I also begin my first series of storytelling workshops with prospective storytellers.


That simple 2011 goal of telling one story at one Moth event has blossomed into one of the most important parts of my creative life.


In 2o13 I resolved to meditate for at least five minutes every day. This has become part of my morning routine that I will likely continue for the rest of my life.


I also resolved in 2013 to try at least one new dish per month, even if it contains ingredients that I wouldn’t normally consider palatable. I achieved this goal and find myself with a new found willingness to try foods, even if I expect to hate them. This has been an enormous change for me, and it is one that I can see carrying on throughout my life.


Don’t let anyone fool you. New Year’s resolutions can change your life, for the upcoming year and sometimes forever, if you actually apply yourself.

My advice:

  • Establish measurable goals.
  • Create a plan to accomplishment them.
  • Check on progress regularly.
  • Remind yourself repeatedly about what your life would look like if you achieved your goals. Envision this life.
  • Also remind yourself that most people fail to accomplish their New Year’s resolutions, and that you are better than most people.