5 Small Ways to Achieve Your Big Goals

Specificity is key

Erin Zammett Ruddy
Published in
3 min readSep 22, 2020


Young Black girl reaching for the sky, aka a salmon-colored circle in the sky.
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Resolutions — made right — can make a huge difference in boosting happiness,” says Gretchen Rubin, host of the podcast Happier With Gretchen Rubin and the author of several books on happiness. The “made right” is important. Resolving to make a change won’t make the change happen on its own. In order to follow through on your goals, you will need to frame them in a way that supports your success. Here’s Rubin’s advice for making resolutions you’ll actually keep, and becoming happier in the process:

Ask yourself: “What would make me happier?”

It might be having more of something good (fun with friends, time for a hobby) or having less of something bad (yelling at your kids, regretting what you’ve eaten). Or it might be fixing something that doesn’t feel right. But you have to identify this “what” before you can make a change for the better.

Identify a concrete habit that would bring about that change

Think specific and actionable. Instead of “find more joy in life,” try something more like “watch a classic movie every Sunday night.”

Think about whether you’re a “yes” resolver or a “no” resolver

Do you want to resolve TO do something or NOT to do something? Frame your resolution to reflect that: Either don’t do X or do do Y.

Ask yourself: “Am I starting small enough? Or big enough?”

At this point in your life, you probably know what actually works to motivate you. Maybe you’re someone who loses interest or gets discouraged by taking it slow and steady. Or maybe you know that if you push yourself too hard, you’ll screech to a halt. Be realistic and calibrate your approach accordingly.

Come up with a plan to hold yourself accountable

Find a friend to check in with. Or set up a system — maybe a note in your calendar or a journaling practice — that will help you check in with yourself.



Erin Zammett Ruddy
Writer for

author of The Little Book of Life Skills (September 2020), contributing editor at Parents and longtime magazine editor and writer. @erinzruddy on Instagram.