How to make meaningful New Year's resolutions for 2021

New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on self-improvement.

Maybe in previous years you have vowed to eat healthier, lose weight, go to the gym three times every week. Or, to read more books, learn a new language or limit your social media time.

These are all solid goals to aim for at the start of the year – but could we be thinking a little bigger? Could 2021 be the year we make truly meaningful resolutions that positively impact ourselves and others?

After the collective trauma of 2020, this January could be an opportunity to pledge to make a difference to your life and those around you. It might be time to draw up some goals that have a slightly different focus.

‘The best way to create meaningful New Year’s resolutions, or any type of change to your life, is to first know what your values are,’ says life coach Faith Hill.

‘Values are central to keeping you motivated and will positively affect your behavior.’

Faith explains that your values are essentially the things that are important to you in life, for example, friendships or community, alone time, financial stability or staying healthy and fit.

‘Values also incorporate your core needs such as trust, honesty, integrity or respect,’ she adds.

‘Linking your New Year’s resolution or life change to your values, will remind you why you set the resolution in the first place and help keep you on track.’

So, it all comes down to motivation. Having a clear and singular driving force behind your resolution will make it easier to stick to, and will keep you focused on making a difference.

‘You may set a resolution to support local charities more; this may fulfil your value of community,’ says Faith. ‘Or, you may want to find a new job because your current organisation or role doesn’t fit with your integrity.

‘Knowing your values will definitely help you stick to your resolutions or life changes.’

Once you have the theory nailed, it’s time for the practical bit. What are the best ways to actually set your goals – and how should you organise your plan?

‘Write them out, in order of importance, and refer to this list if you feel yourself cracking,’ suggests Faith.

‘Another way to help ensure your dedication is to be specific when you set your goal.

‘Rather than vaguely promising to go to the gym more this year, state how many times a week you will go and look at your schedule so you can commit to certain times and days.

‘Make sure you set a realistic target so you don’t fall at the first hurdle.’

Why should you set resolutions this year?

After the year we’ve had – and the ongoing uncertainty – it might be tempting to chuck resolutions out of the window entirely.

Life is hard enough at the moment without setting yourself additional challenges.

But, when things are rocky, stressful and unclear, the best thing you can do for yourself is to set a clear plan – and stick to it.

‘Studies show that people who set resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their lives for the better after six months than people who aspired to do better but didn’t make any,’ says life coach Sam Adams.

Give them so real thought

‘Get real with yourself,’ says Sam. ‘Don’t just write a quick list, you’ll end up letting go of them as quickly and easily as you wrote them down.

‘Make them worthwhile, what would add real meaning to yourself and your life. What does it mean to be the real you?’

Set smaller feel-good goals

‘Little things, like how you communicate with loved ones, making that time for your partner and mostly yourself,’ suggests Sam.

‘Take action step towards them, this could be by setting aside time in your diary every day for you. Remember, you are your longest commitment and your greatest asset. Invest in you.’

Make a difference

This year has been more about community and helping others, Sam says this is because we have gone into survival mode.  

‘Commit to doing something for others,’ she says. ‘When we help others it’s pretty rewarding, I call it a win-win situation.

‘This can be simple things like vowing to just be present in conversations, or sending thank you notes. Small things can have big impact.’

Follow your intuition

‘It’s easy to fall in to the trap of following the crowd, but the only way we’ll make improvements to our own lives this year is to get real with what we personally actually want and need,’ says Sam.

‘Nine times out of 10, our gut is right. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t.  

‘A real meaningful goal is to commit to following your intuition and doing the things that are important to you.’ 


‘This is an old faithful,’ says Sam, ‘but it really can be life-changing.  

‘Lots of people write in a gratitude journal…. but it’s not called “writing grateful” it’s called being grateful. So, be intentional with it. When you find and show your gratitude you will automatically find other things more positive.

Break down big goals

‘A lot of us set some pretty spectacular goals in the New Year,’ says Sam.

‘While it is good to challenge ourselves, in order to achieve it, it’s best to break them down in to bite-sized pieces, this way you won’t get overwhelmed and you’ll get mini wins along the way.

‘This will boost your confidence and help you keep going.’                                         

Examples of meaningful New Year’s resolutions

We asked a selection of people to share their resolutions for this year, and to explain why they are taking a different approach going in to 2021.


My resolution this year is to call my grandparents more. I only used to really see them at family events, but since lockdown, we have been facetiming and chatting on the phone a lot, and it has been amazing.

They are both in their 80s now, and I worry about missing out on time with them. This year I want to make sure they know that I am thinking about them, and that I love them, even if I don’t get to see them in person for a while.


This year I am going to find a therapist. I have struggled with anxiety for a long time, but I have always put off properly dealing with my mental health because the waiting lists are so long and private therapy is expensive.

But I am going to bite the bullet and find an affordable, sustainable option for myself. I want to be pro-active with my mental health. I have already started researching.


My resolution is to carve out more time for myself this year. Lockdown has taught me that I was living my life at a ridiculous pace. Before last year, I would be out four nights a week, drinking too much, exhausted all the time. So I don’t want to go back to that.

Even when the world opens up again, I am going to make sure I am never out two nights in a row. That will force me to slow down and get enough time to rest. It feels like a manageable goal to have.


This year I plan on volunteering with charities. I want to make a difference specifically in my local community where there are lots of families living in poverty and relying on food banks.

In the past I have said I wanted to make a difference and I haven’t followed through, but this year feels different. I work from home now, so I have more time to commit to another cause, and I have already contacted a number of local food banks about how I can get involved.

‘Think about how you can make your resolutions measurable when you set them,’ says Sam. ‘This way you can then determine when you have actually completed it.

‘Resolutions aren’t really meant to be easy – most set them in the hope that they will be life-changing.  So commit to your commitment.’

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