According to a 2021 study, about two-thirds of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions within a month. The study also found most resolutions involve either diet or exercise and people tend to make the same resolutions year after year.

For others, resolutions at the start of a new year are something more meaningful, said Maliakaia Bunbury, East Texas community health worker for the Children’s Defense Fund of East Texas. In her profession, Bunbury dedicates herself to helping people of her community. This upcoming year, she’s setting a goal to help herself.

“I started smoking when I was about 19,” she said.

What began as a social thing eventually grew into a habit. Two children later, Bunbury considered quitting smoking but failed multiple times. After her last pregnancy and health complications that were revealed, Bunbury knows it’s now necessary for her health to completely quit.

“Normally after I smoke I just feel sluggish. I just feel down, I don’t want to do anything,” she said.

Her motivation and how she’s holding herself accountable? Her children.

“I would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to them and their health due to my negligence,” Bunbury said.

First, Bunbury identified her triggers and began to substitute the habit with other things, such as going for a walk, going to the park with her children and chewing gum.

“So far, I’m going to go into the new year without having had a cigarette,” Bunbury said. The clean slate, she said, feels refreshing.

East Texas professionals in finance, fitness and mental wellness have some tips on how to break the statistics and follow through with each goal throughout the year.

Financial goals

Elva Estrada, community banker, commercial lender and former branch manager at a Tyler bank, specializes in commercial lending, building relationships with people in the community to help them in almost every area of their financial lives. From a mortgage loan to making connections to fulfill financial needs, she also specializes in small business lending. In her role, Estrada works to penetrate within the Hispanic community to help those wanting to start new businesses and also helps, guides and gives advice on what banks look for when it comes to lending money.

Estrada first recommends learning about what online banking tools each institution offers to take full advantage of them. Through this year, Estrada said one thing she called a “huge win” for her customers is having automatic deposits and payments toward a savings account.

“Customers will set up a certain dollar amount, on a monthly, weekly or bi-weekly basis and they’ll have it automatically transferred to their savings or money market account,” she said. “Using the online banking tools your institution provides you will be a huge plus when wanting to make financial goals.”

Personally, Estrada said instead of spending five dollars on a cup of coffee, she transfers from five to $10 a day to her savings account, which becomes a small allowance for the week.

“Having weekly habits and staying consistent is definitely key,” Estrada said. “It’s the little things that make a big difference. I can’t stress that enough.”

Another tip Estrada said has helped her and her customers is what she calls, “Save away from you” to hold yourself accountable.

“I won’t have access to my savings account through my online banking to where I’m able to withdraw from it. I have to physically go to the bank and take money out of the account, so that… keeps me in check, whether I really need to withdraw that money,” she said.

When it comes to sticking to your financial goals and seeing them through, Estrada said having willpower is key, and added she’s a firm believer in “staying hungry and staying humble” for growth desired.

“Regardless of whatever you’re doing, if you stay hungry to be your very best at what you’re doing and your profession, a lot of the time, management is going to see that. What that would turn into is an opportunity of higher pay or acknowledgment, and in return, you get that pay increase,” Estrada said.

This was the case for her this year, as Estrada was recently promoted.

“I wanted to continue to better myself. Ultimately, that turned out into a promotion and opportunity to grow. Just stay humble and thinking about the end goal is always such a huge factor,” she said.

Estrada said if you find yourself giving up on your goal, try again.

“We’re going to mess up. We’re not going to be perfect. The key there is to always try, always do your best… Life is full of second opportunities. There’s nothing written down that you can’t start over,” Estrada said.

Personal wellbeing goals

When it comes to having guidance and motivation, East Texas life coach Skyla Bradley said it’s about doing what you do better. In her practice, she empowers her clients to get to their goals and provides extra assistance to help others walk down the path of success with long- and short-term goals.

“It’s identifying where you’re at, where you want to be and how we set measurable goals along the way,” Bradley said.

First, for resolutions, she recommends setting goals and focusing on three to five things you want to change. Bradley said a goal must be SMART, meaning it must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Otherwise, it ends up being a wish and never gets accomplished, she added.

Unrealistic goals, Bradley said, can make a person feel defeated and will take away the desire to set goals.

“A lot of people, maybe they get a membership that first week in January, but gyms are empty come February, and if you set an unrealistic goal, ‘I want to lose 50 pounds in three months,’ that’s unrealistic, so you’re going to feel defeated in that first month that you haven’t lost 30 pounds,” she explained.

Bradley also recommends reaching out for help.

“We are designed for the community. Connect with a friend, mentor, coach or counselor to support you to go from where you are at to where you want to be,” Bradley said.

Get active, she also recommended. Whether that’s a book, workout group, volunteering, “a parked car can’t change directions,” she said. “Go do something and adjust along the way.”

“It’s a journey. You don’t end up here overnight, whatever your situation is, and you’re not going to get to where you want overnight either,” she said.

Lastly, she recommended taking it one day at a time.

“Life happens and frequently is outside of our control. Give yourself grace, adjust and keep moving forward. Consistency over time gets you to where you want to be,” Bradley said.

Fitness and

dietary goals

Cassandra Gann, personal trainer at Fusion Athletic Club in Lindale, talked about health and fitness goals, which according to a new study by Statista, are the most common New Year’s resolutions.

First, Gann said to surround yourself with a support system and friends who stay active and are willing to hold you accountable. For her clients, she recommended it’s not about a diet mentality, but a lifestyle mentality.

“That’s when the magic happens. Old habits die hard,” she said.

When it comes to setting those health and fitness goals, Gann also recommended the SMART goal method, beginning with small goals. With her clients, Gann starts nutritionally, specifically, with breakfast and water.

“Breakfast starts your day right. We do set the tone for our day. Hydration has so much to do with so many things that happen within the body,” Gann said, adding that everything begins at the cellular level. If a person is dehydrated, cell membranes are hard and nutrients bounce off, Gann said, adding that if cell membranes are hydrated, nutrients can get in better.

For keeping a healthy weight, Gann recommends what most personal trainers don’t. She said eat.

“Make sure you get the nourishment in. Make sure you eat your veggies,” Gann said.

Gann’s favorite breakfast when she’s short on time is waffles, made by blending egg whites, rolled oats and cinnamon.

She added cutting out sugar and processed foods will help maintain or lose weight. Her personal recommendation to anyone is to lift weights for resistance training three days a week and cardio, five days a week. In general, moving your body is important, Gann said.

“Exercise or do something active five days a week. It could be a walk around your neighborhood,” she said.

Gann added that changing your lifestyle for the new year begins with small things to do to change that. She recommends the five-second habit, which is counting down from five when you have an instinct to act on a goal.

For example, packing lunch ahead of time, scheduling workout times and putting your gym bag in your car.

Gann said many gyms have offers for free training and classes, from yoga, to CrossFit, Zumba classes or just working out, she recommends to find what you like the most, and sticking to that.

Last but not least, Gann said not to focus on negativity, and to always keep a positive mind.

“Love your body right where you are. Things do well with love. God didn’t make any junk. You are beautiful,” she said.


Recent Stories You Might Have Missed

Bilingual Multimedia Journalist

I cover COVID-19 and health in the East Texas area for Tyler Morning Telegraph, the Longview News-Journal and Tyler Paper Español. Stephen F. Austin State University alumna. For story ideas, email me at