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Spring Is the Time to Keep New Resolutions

Winter is a time for turning inward, while spring is a season of renewal.

Key points

  • The barriers working against us in the winter season can make sticking to goals challenging.
  • The spring season is the optimal time to create lasting change.
  • Here are strategies we can use to support us in our change journey.

Although humans are resistant to change and will do anything we can to fight against it, we crave newness. We find ourselves in a battle between who or where we are and who or where we want to be. This dichotomy is part of what makes our relationship with change so hard.

Despite our fickle relationship with change, every year on the first of January, countless people all over the world commit to change. We resolve to break habits, start something new, do something less, do something more, or do anything we believe will better our current state in life—whether it is physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually, financially, environmentally, occupationally, or spiritually. The new year is perceived as a blank slate, one that has the potential to be the year that we will finally make that positive change we have been set on making. We promise ourselves that this will be the year.

Paint a picture of what January looks like for many of us around the world. It’s winter. It’s cold and dark. It’s dreary. Days are shorter. Many of us are exhausted from the holidays. The change in seasons triggers seasonal affective disorder in some people. There is a myriad of barriers simply working against us at this time of year. Yet, we decide to pursue our goals, habits, and behaviour changes regardless of these barriers. It is truly difficult to create lasting change when the support isn’t there.

Even with good intentions and best-laid plans, we start to feel ourselves falling off the wagon. We tell ourselves we will try again tomorrow but then tomorrow never comes. We fall into old patterns and wait for the next Monday, the first of the next month, or even the next January. We give up, just to start the process all over again when it feels like the right time.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, most resolutions fail within a month. Perhaps many New Year’s resolutions remain unmet not because they are too lofty or ambitious, but simply because we are starting them at the wrong time.

Spring, however, is a time of renewal. The days get longer, and we are gifted with more hours of daylight. The weather gets warmer as the sun starts shining. Bird songs and calls become the background soundtrack of our days. We witness the first buds on the trees and the flowers that bloom colour our world. Mother Nature shows us the beauty in fresh starts.

Our souls are awakened after the long cold winter just as the land is awakening. We feel restored and our moods begin to lift. We have the desire and energy to get started on all those plans and projects we’ve been thinking about. March and April can be our time to start anew.

Taking inspiration from this earth and land we live upon, we can walk alongside Mother Nature, and one another, in our change journeys. We have more daylight and sunshine, it feels good to be outside, our moods are improved, and our social interactions increase. Many of the most common resolutions, around areas such as exercise, eating habits, finances, productivity, and mental health, feel simpler and less daunting in the springtime.

Based on a study by Lally and Gardner (2013), it can take anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for a new behaviour to become automatic, depending on the behaviour, person, and circumstances. On average, habit formation takes more than two months. As we begin to shift our thinking about the best time to start our resolutions, how can we create resolutions and goals that stick this spring?

A huge problem for so many is that our resolutions, goals, habits, and desired behaviour changes lack clarity. We say: “I want to lose weight.” “I will focus on my mental health.” “I will spend more time with people I love.” “I want to save more money,” “I will spend less time on social media.,” The list goes on.

We mean well. However, the vagueness makes it easier to give up at the first sign of struggle or failure or when there is no immediate benefit. Developing a clear plan with an end goal and smaller actionable steps to get us there is key.

Smart goals (Doran, 1981) are a goal-setting framework that can support us in our change journey. In my work, I add an ‘O’ at the end because it is important to have a plan to overcome inevitable obstacles.

  • Specific – What specifically do you want to achieve?

  • Measurable – How will you know you are working toward or completing your goal?

  • Attainable – Do you have the tools to make this happen? Is it within your capabilities?

  • Relevant – Does the goal align with your values and lifestyle?

  • Timely – When will you start? What is your deadline?

  • Obstacles – What might get in the way? How can you plan for it?

Here are more tips on how to create lasting change:

  • Write it down – You increase your likelihood of reaching your goals when you write down what you want to achieve. Habit tracking can also be powerful, as it provides a visual cue, motivates you, and provides immediate satisfaction (Clear, 2018).

  • Find your support system – Let others know what you are working towards and let them know how they can support you.

  • Leave behind all-or-nothing thinking – This is overwhelming and unrealistic. Something is better than nothing.

  • Celebrate the small wins – Celebrate the work you are putting in and let those wins be the motivation you need to keep going.

  • Become the change – In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear shares the value in shifting from outcome-based habits that focus on what you want to achieve to identity-based habits where you focus on who you wish to become. Make your new behaviour part of how you see yourself.

No matter what you resolve to change, you can refocus, readjust, and reset as many times as you need. Show yourself grace and patience. Your progress is more important than perfection.

Let’s spring into the new season of change with good intentions, steady hope, and renewed optimism. And of course, a rejuvenating breath of fresh air.

As Matshona Dhliwayo said, “Spring is proof that there is beauty in new beginnings.” Here’s to those beautiful new beginnings. Mother Nature’s and our own.


Self-Regulatory Goal Motivational Processes in Sustained New Year Resolution Pursuit and Mental Wellbeing. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021

Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review. Phillippa Lally, Benjamin Gardner.

Doran, G.T. (1981). There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives. Journal of Management Review, 70, 35-36.

Doran, G.T. (1981). There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives. Journal of Management Review, 70, 35-36.

Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. James Clear. Penguin.

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