I love New Year’s resolutions. People are quick to point out how often we fail to accomplish them, but I don’t think that fear of failure should hold you back from this helpful exercise (or doing anything, really). I have failed to achieve many resolutions, but at minimum, thinking about what I wanted to accomplish helped me to live a more intentional life and gain greater perspective on my life. This New Year’s Day, I hope you are taking some time to reflect on what you want to accomplish this year. If you are, I have put together this handy guide to making the most of your New Year’s resolutions.
Picking Your Resolutions
Pick realistic and specific goals
Making resolutions that are too lofty or vague guarantees that you aren’t going to accomplish them. Don’t resolve to exercise on a daily basis when you rarely do now; that isn’t realistic. Instead, work yourself up to that goal by exercising once a week, then adding more days as you go.
Additionally, if your resolutions are too general, it’s harder to stick to them because you don’t have a specific measure of success. If you want to read more, for example, pick exactly how often you will read and for how long. If you have overarching goals, such as becoming a better flutist, make more specific goals that contribute to it, like playing the flute for 15 minutes every day or joining a flute interest group (that’s a thing, right?).
Make a resolution a month
A year is a long time to keep focused on a goal, as evidenced by the fact that most people give up on their resolutions sometime in February. Instead of making your resolutions for the whole year, make a resolution for each month of the year. For example, if you want to become a better cook, you might resolve to make a new dish twice a week in January. At the end of the month, you will have eight new dishes in your repertoire, and you can focus on other things in February.
Before committing to a resolution, research it as much as possible to find resources to help you. For example, if you want to start doing yoga, look into classes in the area, check out YouTube (Yoga by Adriene is awesome and accessible, by the way), and read some background information so you have a better understanding. Researching into your resolutions makes you more invested in them and keeps them at the forefront of your mind.
When making your resolutions, think about your accomplishments over the past year, as well as things you would like to improve in your life and about yourself. Below are some questions to help you reflect on what you want out of your resolutions.
Questions for Self-Reflection
- In what ways have you changed over the past year?
- What 2016 accomplishments are you proud of?
- This time next year, how you would like to answer the above questions?
- What could you work on within yourself? What are your biggest obstacles to change?
- What makes you feel fulfilled and happy?
- How do you feel about your physical health? Your mental health? Your emotional health?
- Who are the most important people in your life? How do you feel about your relationships with them? What could you do to improve them?
- How could you deepen your spiritual life?
- How could you improve your financial well-being?
- What would you like to accomplish professionally this year?
- What creative outlets do you have? How could you enrich your creativity?
Strategies For Sticking With It
Accountability makes humans actually do things because we don’t want to let anyone down. Use the power of social pressure to keep yourself moving towards your goals. You can get a buddy to commit to the resolution with, or you could start a social media account or blog to track your progress. Anyway you can establish accountability, do it.
Brace yourself for the first of many Brené Brown quotes that will be featured on this blog:
“Perfectionism is not the same thing has striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”
You aren’t going to be perfect with your resolutions. Making the choice to change doesn’t mean it is going to happen overnight, and you will stumble along the way. Forgive yourself your failures and get back up and try again.
Write them down
You are more likely to stick to your resolutions when you write them down because it makes them more tangible when you see them on paper. This also makes you more focused and committed to your goals, and makes it easier to remember them. Don’t try to just remember your resolutions; make them real and write them down.
Just writing your resolutions on a piece of paper and sticking it in a drawer isn’t going to be enough to keep your goals on your mind. There are several ways you can keep reminding yourself of your resolutions. You could hang them next to your mirror as a daily nudge to keep at it, or schedule out specific tasks on your phone calendar so you are regularly getting automated reminders. Keep your resolutions at the forefront of your mind, and you will be more likely to achieve them.
Regardless of whether or not you succeed in your resolutions, I hope 2017 brings happiness, good health, and peace for you all. Happy New Year!