How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions: Acceptance Commitment Therapy (A.C.T.).

As we step into another new year, it’s that time again when we ponder our resolutions for the upcoming months. Whether you’re a dedicated resolution-maker or not, this moment encourages us all to reflect. How do we envision this year being distinct from the last? What transformations do we aspire to make in our lives? What aspirations are fueling our journey forward?

Embarking on the New Year’s resolutions journey, we’re all filled with hope and determination. However, it’s well-known that these aspirations often fizzle out faster than a sparkler on January 2nd.

According to Time Magazine, “by some estimates, as many as 80% of people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions by February”. And as few as 8% of people stick with their New Year’s Resolutions for the entire year.

The reality is that change often unfolds gradually. While there are instances of dramatic transformations occurring overnight, more often than not, change takes time. New Year’s resolutions often underestimate that realizing the changes we envisioned on January 2nd might take much longer.

However, resolutions remain empty promises unless backed by concrete actions, and simply creating a solution doesn’t automatically lead to an action plan. This is where Acceptance Commitment Therapy (A.C.T.), a valuable framework that provides ideas and tools to guide us through the journey of change, comes in.

Whether you seek the guidance of a therapist practicing A.C.T., like the knowledgeable counselors of Empower Counseling, or apply its principles independently, this model can help you maintain your resolutions throughout the entire year.

A woman thinking about New Year's resolutions/ ACT with Empower Counseling

Understanding Acceptance Commitment Therapy (A.C.T.)

A.C.T. is a unique approach that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies and behavior change strategies to increase psychological flexibility. The core processes of ACT include cognitive diffusion, acceptance, contact with the present moment, observing the self, values, and committed action.

ACT’s primary objective is to enhance psychological flexibility, which means being consciously present in the moment and choosing actions that align with your deeply held values, to the extent the situation permits.

ACT encourages you to connect with your values, those that come from within yourself rather than external sources like society, family, or friends. Once you’ve identified these values and ensured your intrinsic motivation drives your resolutions, you can then create a clear and actionable plan for progress.

A compass pointing toward core values

How To Clarify Your Values With ACT: Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

In the world of Acceptance Commitment Therapy, or ACT for short, there lies a profound concept that sets the stage for transformative change: values. These are not mere goals, but the guiding principles that breathe life into our actions and decisions. Unlike goals, values are not destined to be checked off a list; they are a continuous journey, a perpetual dance that shapes the essence of who we strive to become.

Diving Deeper: Values Versus Goals

Values, much like the roots of a mighty tree. They are our foundation and can be our guiding compass.

A value is not a solitary accomplishment; it’s a lifelong commitment to a certain way of being. Imagine declaring, “I wish to treat my family with the utmost respect” – this is a value. It’s not a one-and-done affair but an ongoing dedication, a consistent practice that defines your character.

In stark contrast, goals are the destinations we chart for ourselves, tangible objectives that can be firmly checked off the list once achieved. Consider saying, “I aspire to get married” – this is a goal. Once the vows are exchanged, the goal is met, and the chapter is closed.

“Now that we’ve established the foundation of values, it’s time to embark on a journey of self-discovery.

This exercise is designed to illuminate your values across four pivotal domains:

1. Relationships

2. Education and Career

3. Personal Growth and Well-being

4. Leisure and Enjoyment

As you dive into this transformative exercise, keep in mind that values possess unique qualities:

1. Everlasting – Unlike goals, values are perpetual and never truly accomplished.

2. Action-Driven – They revolve around how you aspire to act, not just the outcomes.

3. Personalized – Values are deeply personal, governing your conduct in the world, as you can only influence your own actions.

a bull's eye on top of arrows signifying goal achievement

By aligning your SMART goal with a core value, you not only make it personally meaningful but also increase your commitment to achieving it.

For instance, if you resolve to adopt a healthier diet, a logical starting point is to examine your values. “Am I pursuing this change because I feel pressured by my health-conscious culture, my social circle, or external expectations? Or is my motivation rooted in a genuine concern for my physical well-being, stemming from my core values? Perhaps I value being a role model for my children and want to eat healthier for that reason.

Once you’ve established your values and aligned your resolution with them, you can craft a tangible road map for achieving your goal.

Another useful tool within ACT is the Choice Point Model, which offers a framework for making decisions consistent with your values.

Ever wondered what stands between you and your most important goals? Could it be fear, stress, or even that nagging sense of dread? It may be the belief that you can’t manage without a certain something, be it ‘x,’ ‘y,’ or ‘z. Identifying these mental barriers is the first step towards living a life aligned with your values. We all have blind spots when it comes to ourselves. This is where our ACT therapists at Empower Counseling can help you the most….helping you see the internal obstacles that you can not see yourself. It does not matter how many resolutions you make. If you are not aware of your internal obstacles, you will not be able to reach your goals.

Although these internal struggles might feel uncomfortable, and sometimes downright unbearable, remember this: Awareness is your secret weapon. By becoming conscious of your thoughts and feelings, you gain the upper hand. You can acknowledge their presence and, most importantly, make a conscious choice about how to respond

A choice point is a moment in time when you can opt to act in harmony with your values or contrary to them. It’s about recognizing the countless moments in your daily life where you can either act automatically, driven by thoughts and emotions, or make a conscious choice that aligns with your values. When faced with a choice point, you can employ the STOP acronym:

S: Slow down – Take three mindful breaths.

T: Take notice – What thoughts and feelings are present?

O: Open up – Allow space for those thoughts and feelings rather than avoiding discomfort.

P: Pursue values – Act following what truly matters to you.

Embracing ACT can empower you to transform your resolutions into enduring commitments by ensuring they are anchored in your core values and guiding you to make choices that honor those values at every opportunity.

Once you’ve unlocked the treasure chest of your top 5 values, it’s time to select a resolution that’s like a harmonious symphony with one of them. For instance, if ‘growth’ is your goal, then a resolution to read more books is the perfect tune. If ‘vitality’ or ‘health’ rings true, then exercising is your anthem.

a person forming a shape of  a heart with hands

Self-Compassion to help Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Now, here’s a secret: we’re all bound to stumble on this quest. Nobody starts a new adventure and follows the map to perfection. Your body and mind might rebel, even against the healthiest of habits. That’s where self-compassion comes into play. Extend a helping hand to yourself and embrace experiential acceptance.

Yes, you’re just as human as the rest of us, which means you’ll encounter those inevitable stumbling blocks and moments when your actions don’t align with your core values. Perhaps you’ll skip that workout or lose your cool with the kids who are relentlessly eager to play. But here’s the key: Extend kindness to yourself and your little ones! Grant yourself some well-deserved grace and let compassion guide your way.

Then, with renewed vigor, steer yourself back toward the path of what truly matters – your essence and your cherished priorities.

Now, armed with acceptance and self-love, it’s time to wield the power of present-moment awareness, also known as mindfulness. It’s your secret weapon for recognizing when you’ve veered off course and for celebrating your victories along the way. After all, ACT is about gracefully dancing towards your values.

When those pesky, unhelpful thoughts and emotions appear on your path, fear not. Cognitive diffusion and Self-as-context are your trusty companions, ready to guide you through the turbulent terrain.

Lastly, let’s talk about committed action. If you want to rock those resolutions, it’s time to set goals so crystal clear they sparkle. Instead of a vague “I’ll exercise more,” opt for precision: “I will walk for 10 minutes every Monday at 7:00 am. And if life throws me a curve ball, I’ll take a 10-minute walk during my Tuesday lunch break.”

Clear goals are your ticket to success, increasing your odds of achieving them tenfold. So, are you ready to embark on this epic journey towards your best self?

a man with upward stretched arms on top of a mountain/ triumphant after keeping New Year's Resolutions through ACT/ Empower Counseling/ Birmingham

How Empower Counseling Can Help You Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions Using ACT

  • At Empower Counseling, we specialize in helping people like you keep their New Year resolutions and their goals throughout the year using the ACT method. With a team of experienced and licensed counselors, we aim to support your journey toward better mental health in the new year and beyond.
  • Founded with the vision of providing a safe and non-judgmental space for our clients, Empower Counseling prioritizes the well-being and empowerment of each person seeking assistance.
  • Our therapists use ACT to emphasize the importance of mindfulness and self-awareness. You’ll learn to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment, allowing you to better understand the barriers that have held you back in the past. This self-awareness is crucial for recognizing unhelpful patterns and making meaningful changes.
  • Negative self-talk and self-doubt often sabotage our efforts to achieve our goals. Empower Counseling’s ACT approach teaches you how to “defuse” these negative thoughts and develop a healthier relationship with them. By acknowledging that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts, you can prevent them from derailing your progress.
  • Highly Qualified Counselors: At Empower Counseling, we boast of our highly trained and qualified counselors specializing in various therapeutic modalities whose expertise allows them to provide a comprehensive approach for you.
  • Empower Counseling adopts a holistic approach that addresses your emotional, psychological, and behavioral aspects. Resilience is a key component of achieving long-term success with your New Year’s resolutions. Through ACT, you’ll develop the resilience to navigate setbacks and adapt to changing circumstances. This flexibility ensures that you won’t give up on your goals even if you face challenges.
  • Personalized Care: Every client’s journey is unique at Empower Counseling. The counselors take the time to understand your concerns and goals, tailoring therapy sessions to suit your individual needs.
  • Once you’ve set your goals, clarified your values, and increased your self-awareness, it’s time for the commitment phase. Our therapists uses ACT to encourage you to take meaningful, values-based actions despite the discomfort or fear that may arise. Empower Counseling’s therapists will provide you with practical strategies to overcome obstacles and stay on track.
  •  Positive Mindset Cultivation: One of the key aspects of counselling at Empower is cultivating a positive and growth-oriented mindset. This helps build self-confidence and fosters a greater sense of self-worth.
  • Empower Counseling doesn’t just offer a therapy session; we offer a supportive partnership. Your therapist will be there to guide you, encourage you, and hold you accountable throughout your journey. This personalized support is invaluable in helping you achieve your New Year’s resolutions.


Achieving your New Year’s resolutions might sound like a herculean task, but we’re here to turn your aspirations into accomplishments. Our dedicated team of therapists is committed to guiding you through the journey of conquering obstacles and helping you achieve the success you truly deserve. Whether you prefer the convenience of online therapy or the personal touch of in-person sessions, we’re here to support you.

Ready to kick start your journey to a better you? Follow these simple steps:

  1. Reach out to Empower Counseling and schedule your initial appointment.
  1. Get acquainted with your therapist.
  1. Embark on your journey towards personal growth and success.

Kathryn, Marti, and Savannah, with Empower Counseling have specialized training in Acceptance Commitment Therapy, a higher level cognitive behavior therapy proven effective in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma. To date we are the only practice in Birmingham specializing in ACT. Empower Counseling in Mountain Brook offers ACT for anxiety therapy, depression counseling, counseling for difficult life transitions, trauma and PTSD counseling. And we offer counseling for perfectionism which drives procrastination and burn out. We offer all of these services for teen counseling, counseling for college students for students at the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Samford University, UAB, and Birmingham-Southern College, young adult counseling and counseling for professionals. All of our services are offered in person in our Mountain Brook offices and we offer online counseling for clients living anywhere in the state of Alabama.

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