Made to last

5 steps to make change stick in 2021.

Written by Emerald Works
Published 04 January 2021
Made to last
For many of us, the start of the year is a time to take stock and set goals. With renewed energy and confidence, we aim to eat more healthily or work on the things we really want to.

So, why do we so often fall at the first hurdle? Whether you’re determined to learn a new skill or break free from old habits, our five-point guide explains how you can hit your goals.

1. Don’t go wish-list crazy

If you set lots of different goals, the chances of keeping any of them are slim. Psychologist Richard Wiseman recommends making just one. [1] Focusing all your energy and efforts on reaching a single goal is far easier than trying to juggle multiple ones.

Write your goal down and put it somewhere prominent such as your PC desktop or fridge door. You could also look for relevant quotes and pictures to inspire you.

2. Make it manageable

Another common pitfall when it comes to hitting goals is trying to do something extremely difficult. The surest way to fall short of your objectives is by being overambitious.

So, don’t set yourself up to fail. Instead, think about a personal or career goal that is attainable and beneficial. For example, instead of aiming to never make another mistake at work, a more manageable goal is to check your work thoroughly and take a more considered approach.

3. Break it down

A goal can seem overwhelming if you look at it as a whole. So, try breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Create a path to success by putting together a series of objectives – or stepping stones – towards your overall target.

If your goal is to expand your professional network, for example, you might break it down like this:

  • Work on your elevator pitch
  • Make a list of potential networking opportunities
  • Attend one or two relevant events per month
  • Follow up with your new contacts after each event.

4. Think ‘habit’ for lasting change

The secret to breaking bad practices is to replace them with good ones. But this is tricky as we are, by nature, creatures of habit. Change begins with identifying your triggers. These are the situations, circumstances and behaviors that lead you back to old routines.

If you can identify your personal triggers, and take steps to avoid them, you’ll be well on the way towards lasting change. It’s also important to remember that breaking bad habits isn’t easy, and you should expect setbacks from time to time.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely even recommends having the odd “cheat day”, or break, as studies show you’re more likely to stick to your goal in the long-run. [2]

5. Keep your eyes on the prize

The key to hitting goals is momentum. Keeping a record, on an app or a simple journal, is a great way to reflect on your progress, stay focused and motivated.

And as you tick off objectives, your brain will release dopamine – a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. You can reward yourself, too, for hitting personal milestones.  

Finally, tell your friends, family or colleagues about your goals. They can support you and hold you accountable – proven ways to succeed. Good luck!


[1] Richard Wiseman, 'How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions'. Available at: (accessed 14 December 2020).
[2] Kristen Doerer, ‘Why it’s OK to splurge on Black Friday, according to a behavioral economist.’ Available at: (accessed 14 December 2020).

About the author

Emerald Works

Emerald Works

At Emerald Works, we’re committed to helping individuals and organizations around the world realize their full potential by using evidence-led learning solutions that work.

We work together to build learning cultures that empower people to bring about real change for real impact.

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