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Make Promises, Not Resolutions, in 2020

We have high hopes for ourselves on December 31, don’t we? Maybe it’s the champagne or the confetti, but something about that night makes us feel like we can do anything. Some people make the same resolutions year after year—hoping that this is the year when they’ll finally run that 5K, or make more money, or read more books. 

Oh, please. We all know what happens next. We sign up for a gym membership and maybe go a handful of times. But by early February, we can’t even find our tennis shoes.


59% of Americans who made New Year’s resolutions in 2019 said that they wanted to exercise more, and 51% said they wanted to save more money.1 It’s easy to make a resolution, but it’s a lot harder to keep it. But why? Because resolutions are vague. They’re fuzzy. They feel fun or empowering in the moment, but we drop our resolutions about as fast as the ball drops on New Year’s Eve—because there’s nothing on the line.

Instead of resolutions, let’s make promises. Promises are powerful because they carry weight. When you make a promise, you give your word to someone. You’ve just raised the stakes. You’re motivated by an internal desire, not an empty holiday tradition.


So, what in the world is a New Year’s promise? And how do you make them? Keep in mind that this will take some time. We encourage you to set aside an hour or two and follow these four steps.  

1. Reflect on the Past Year

Look back all the way to January and make a list of the major life events in your job, your family, your personal health, and your relationships. What were the highs from this year? What about the lows? Just making that list will help you relive some of the most significant moments of your year and get you thinking about what you’ve done well and what needs to change. Making big changes starts by being in the right mental space. Our thoughts drive our behaviors, and our behaviors determine our progress.

2. Consider the Changes You Want to Make

Here at Ramsey Solutions, we talk a lot about the seven spokes on The Wheel of Life, developed by Zig Ziglar—one of the greatest motivational speakers who ever lived. We love looking at life through these seven filters as we make promises and set goals.


Think about your life from these seven perspectives. Then, picture the future you want to have and write down one or two changes you need to make to get there.

  • Spiritual: How’s your spiritual health? Would you like to pray more, or find ways to serve in your community?
  • Physical: This could be the year you finally shed those extra pounds. Or maybe you want to train for a race or have your best year yet on the golf course. 
  • Intellectual: Think about strengthening your mind as well as your body.     
  • Career: Do you want to move into a leadership role at work, or develop a new professional skill?  
  • Financial: Maybe you want to get out of debt, pay off your house early, or increase your retirement savings.
  • Social: Do you have strong, healthy friendships, or do you need to make a few phone calls and reconnect with some people?  
  • Family: How much time do you spend with the people who matter most?  

3Make Your Promises Achievable and Measurable   

Go back to your list and rewrite the seven changes you want to make as promise statements. When you make a promise, it raises the stakes. You give your word and put your reputation on the line. You also involve other people, which allows them to hold you accountable.  

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Make sure that your promises have a specific goal that is achievable and measurable. Here’s what we mean: You need to cast a big-picture vision for your promises, but you also need a plan for how you’re going to get there. Include a time frame in your goals. Otherwise, how will you measure progress? 

We’ll show you a few examples of what this looks like. Let’s look at a financial goal:

  • I’d like to pay off my house early.

Okay, we’ve got a goal here, but now we need a plan. Let’s rewrite this as a promise and make it achievable and measurable. Check it out:

  • I promise to increase our monthly mortgage payment by $200.

See the difference? Breaking up your big goal into bite-sized pieces will keep you focused and hold you accountable. Here’s a family example:

  • I want to spend more time with my family.

This is a great desire, but what are you going to do to make it happen? How about this:   

  • I promise to leave work by 6 p.m. so I can be home in time for dinner.
  • I promise to take each of my kids out once a month for a fun activity

Woah. Those statements are powerful. It’s easy to forget about a resolution you make for yourself. It’s a lot harder to break a promise you make to your kids.

4. Share Your List With Someone You Trust

If you’re married, loop your spouse into the conversation and ask them to encourage you and hold you accountable to your New Year’s promises. If you’re single, find a good friend or mentor who will be your cheerleader throughout the process.

This could be your best year yet. It’s up to you to decide! Stay focused on the promises you make. Put the list up in your bedroom or hang it on your bathroom mirror. Trust us: You will get off track. That’s why you need to realign with your promises every day.


Do you have money goals for the New Year? Learn how to pay off debt, budget, build wealth, and live generously through Financial Peace University with Ramsey+. It’s the proven plan that’s helped over 6 million people take control of their finances! Are you ready to join them?

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About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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