On January 1, 2017, nearly half of us will wake up (probably with smudged mascara, a pounding headache and still in our glittery outfits from the night before), log onto Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, and profess our resolutions for the following year. Prefaced by the hashtag #NewYearNewMe, of course.
But while each year we kick off with gusto a quest to become fitter, stronger, more knowledgeable or more accomplished, by February or March, that journey tends to lose steam. According to a recent study from the University of Scranton, only 8 percent of people will actually achieve their resolutions by the end of the year, with 75 percent of individuals only making it past the first week. Ouch.
So where are the vast majority of us going wrong? While the answer to this question is hardly all-encompassing, what’s undoubtedly true is that several of these resolutions lack a definitive plan. Although it’s easy to imagine yourself 20 pounds lighter or in a brand-new career, exactly how are you going to achieve that goal? Why do you truly want to lose the weight, or embark on something new?
To help you draw inspo for achieving your own New Year’s resolution in 2017, here are six extraordinary success stories from real people who achieved their goals this past year.
‘I changed my career trajectory’
When Amanda Lomanto came out of a particularly damaging relationship nearly a decade ago, her self-confidence was badly damaged. So when 2015 started to draw to a close, she knew the following year she needed to make some drastic changes.
“I knew that I had to step out of my comfort zone in 2016,” she explains. “I needed to break down my walls and start down the path of self-discovery in all aspects of my life, especially work.”
Around that same time, Lomanto was laid off by her employer. While initially rattled, she says that the event helped her realize that she was unhappy in her current career in the marketing and software industries and that she needed to follow her dreams. “I always wanted to become a real estate agent, but never had the courage to make that leap,” she says. The layoff gave her the push she needed.
Of course, completely reversing your current career path doesn’t come without its challenges. But Lomanto made a promise to herself to tackle new challenges regularly, including attending a conference where she didn’t know anyone and becoming an exhibitor at a local event.
“This journey has been amazing, and I am so proud of myself. I could have just stayed on my original path without passion and love for what I do,” she explains. “But instead I made the best change. Every day I am challenged with something outside of my comfort zone and every day I gain just a little more confidence.”
‘I lost 70 pounds’
At the end of 2015, Katie Propati was at a particularly low point. While she knew for some time that she needed to shed some of her 240 pounds, she had trouble finding the motivation. But when Propati found out that her younger sister would be getting married, she knew she needed to make a drastic change.
“I felt like garbage. I hated how I looked in clothes,” she confesses. “I didn’t start with a number in mind at first, I just knew I didn’t want to look the way that I currently did at my sister’s wedding.”
With the wedding on the horizon, Propati began making swift changes in her everyday routine. “I didn’t do anything special or expensive,” she explains. “I didn’t sign up for Weight Watchers or Beach Body. It was 100 percent on my own. I cut back on my portions and started eating cleaner, but didn’t completely cut anything out. I’d go for walks during lunch, or go to the gym for 30 to 40 minutes. I also walked more places versus driving and parked in the back of the parking lot.”
The persistence paid off. Propati is now down to 162 pounds, with the momentum still going strong. “I am so impressed by the things I can do now at the end of 2016. I feel stronger and more flexible. I just love pushing myself and seeing what I’m capable of,” she says.
‘I quit smoking’
Although Heather Ferris-Lehman knew she needed to quit smoking (a habit she had held onto for 17 years), that didn’t mean that she necessarily wanted to. “I tried to quit four times before, but each of those times were about knowing I should quit, that I needed to quit…but I really didn’t want to quit,” she explains. At some point, however, the need to take constant smoke breaks started to get annoying, and the smell and taste of cigarettes much less appealing.
What’s more, Ferris-Lehman was a soon-to-be step-mom. “I knew I had to stop for the kids. Sneaking off to the side of the house hiding from them made me feel like a terrible person. I did not want to be a smoker anymore,” she says.
While she started her quest to quit with methods like e-cigarettes and vaping, Ferris-Lehman didn’t realize how difficult her journey would ultimately be. “It was unbelievably hard,” she says. “The first 30 days were a fight, even with the e-cigarettes.”
But after those initial 30 days, and subsequent months of slowly but surely whittling down her nicotine intake, Ferris-Lehman started to feel the changes.
“I became disgusted by the smell of smoke,” she admits. “Sometimes I struggle when cravings when I’m out drinking with friends, but I still haven’t caved—and am so, so proud of myself. I can call myself a non-smoker, and it’s glorious.”
‘I chose to get serious about my future’
During the summer of 2015, 30-year-old Ali Mileski was hit with some pretty difficult news: she had a low ovarian reserve. And as a labor and delivery nurse at one of NYC’s most prominent hospitals, Mileski knew exactly what that meant for her ability to become pregnant. And it wasn’t good.
“You can imagine how depressed I became,” she explains. “Everyday I went to work, put on a happy face and made other women’s dreams come true while mine were falling apart. The uncertainty of whether or not I would ever be capable of having that joy was excruciating.”
So for 2016, Mileski opted to strive for a slightly unconventional aspiration: she resolved to stop time.
“The decision to freeze my eggs has changed my life,” she says. “I’ve found that happy, bubbly woman I always was again. I’ve returned to the joy of building my career once more, and I even date much differently now. The pressure to ‘settle down’ has evaporated, and I no longer respond negatively when friends and family suggest that time is running out. My anxiety and fears about the future are gone, and I can’t explain how good that feels.”
And the best part of all? Mileski can now truly enjoy her line of work. “I’ve found the joy in building my career and being part of those wonderful birth stories again,” she says. “All because I resolved to take the leap and do one of the scariest and hardest things of my life so far. After all of that, it was actually one of the best things in my life so far.”
‘I wanted to become a better person overall’
At the end of 2015, Jasmine Jones was feeling ambitious. From getting into a relationship to saving money to pursuing her career goals, she wanted to achieve not one but several resolutions for the new year. But, like many other individuals with NYRs, Jones needed a way to effectively organize those goals.
“I decided to take a different approach to my New Year’s resolutions in 2016,” she explains. “I read that at least 90 percent of vision board creators accomplish their goals, so I decided to give it a try. My friend invited me to a party where I made my first board and the rest is history.”
By outlining a concrete path for her aspirations on her vision board, Jones was able to achieve her original goals and more. “This year I gained a healthy, romantic relationship, saved more money than I ever did in the nearly five years of being out of college, and self-published my first book in a devotional series,” she explains. “The best part is, all of these resolutions began on my vision board.”
Jones recommends making the board as visual as possible. “Don’t just file it away under a stack of papers on your desk. Hang it up and display it somewhere that you’ll see it everyday,” she suggests. “I displayed my vision board on the wall directly across from my bed, so I’d see it every morning when I wake up. Seeing my goals every day encouraged me to set a plan daily to achieve it!”
‘I wanted to read at least 24 books’
While Mansi Laus Deo’s resolution of reading at least 24 books in 2016 wasn’t as dramatic or drastic as, say, losing weight or stopping time, that didn’t make her journey any less difficult, especially with her job as an editor and blogger consuming much of her time. So to foster a stronger passion for reading, Deo opted for a sense of community.
“To keep myself motivated, I participated in Brunch Book Challenge, a reading challenge I happened to find in my local newspaper,” she says. “So whenever I received good Internet signal, I tweeted out excerpts and opinions from my current reads. I also received lots of encouragement from the readers of my blog.”
What’s more, Deo found ways to replace certain activities she could live without (i.e. listening to music on the way home from work) with books, in addition to small but significant ways to make reading a bit more accessible. “I have 20 interrupted minutes of commuting on the train from my office, so I used that to read,” she explains. “I also swapped my handbag to a shoulder bag to carry my books with me everywhere—to meetings, to lunch, to my weekend trips. I also bought myself a Kindle to save space.”