The New Year’s Resolution Roadmap
We’ve all heard the saying “new year, new me” – but for some the romanticism has worn off amidst the yearly realisation that this resolution is always easier said than done. While there are many people who continue to make New Year’s resolutions religiously year after year, others may be apprehensive or dismissive of the tradition, which could be due to a variety of reasons. To some, the concept may be new, foreign, or outside of their comfort zone. For others, setting New Year’s resolutions might have been a tradition they followed in the past but are no longer interested in due to multiple failed attempts. Whatever your reason, or wherever you may stand on making New Year’s resolutions, this blog post offers a step-by-step guide to help you set resolutions that will work for you.
Resolution resentment: The problem with traditional approaches to New Year’s resolutions
Drawing up a list of New Year’s resolutions can be a positive and inspiring process. It’s a chance to re-align with our purpose, re-adjust our focus, and recommit to our best self. However, we can sometimes become bitter, harsh, and self-critical when we realise, we haven’t achieved the highly ambitious expectations we’ve set out for ourselves. In addition to beating ourselves up about the situation, we may also come to resent the very concept of making resolutions in the first place. So, how do we change this predicament? How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen on our next attempt at New Year’s resolutions?
A traditional approach to New Year’s resolutions poses the same issues as a traditional approach to goalsetting. Put simply, this means making a list of several highly specific things we’d like to achieve in a certain time frame, without looking at the true value or motivation for making the change. We often forget to consider exactly how each goal or resolution will contribute to our long-term happiness and whether it will truly bring us closer to the life we’ve envisioned for ourselves. When we aren’t clear about our true motivations or intentions, it can be a lot easier for us to forget why we wanted to achieve a given goal in the first place.
In the sections to follow, we will be looking at the ideal roadmap for setting New Year’s resolutions, from their inception to their execution – and beyond.
New Year’s resolutions for beginners – Laying a solid foundation
If this is your first year making New Year’s resolutions, you’ve come to the right place. One of the most frequently asked questions about New Year’s resolutions today is: “Which New Year’s resolution is best?” Although the term ‘best’ can imply several different things here, the simple answer would be that the best resolutions are the ones we do for ourselves – just for us – and that we can’t go a day without thinking about.
We can make as many or as few New Year’s resolutions as we like, and they can be as big or small as we want them to be. If you’re new to the activity, it may be good to keep it simple at first and ensure that you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself. Often, when we hear others talking about their resolutions, we may place lots of pressure on ourselves to match up to their standards. Or to approach the process with the same level of planning and enthusiasm. It is in these moments that we need to stop, take a step back, and remind ourselves this is not a competition nor a space for comparison. We need to stick to our process and carry it out in a way that feels comfortable and authentic to us.
We can begin our process by envisioning the happiest and most fulfilled future version of ourselves, and then posing the questions: 1.) “What made me feel most happy over the past year;” and 2.) “What helped me to get closer to the life I want for myself?” Once you have some answers in mind, ask yourself: “How am I going to make sure that I do more of the things that make me happy in the new year, and how am I going to get myself even closer to the life I want for myself?” We can then begin listing one (or more) activity or challenge for the new year that will help us to achieve both of these objectives. Once we have a list in hand, we can rest assured that we have a strong basis to support us through our resolution-making journey.
Clear and honest intentions
When we base our goals and resolutions on something which we feel truly passionate about and that aligns with our core values, we are more likely to stick to them. On the contrary, when we base our resolutions on societal expectations and pressures or on things that will make other people happy, we end up chasing something half-heartedly. Our actions will only be backed by a strong enough will when we ensure that our motivations are internal rather than external. We need to focus on improving our own quality of life versus impressing others. Internal motivation is usually far more powerful than external motivation.
The power of the present moment
While the narrative around goalsetting and resolutions is inherently future-focused, it’s important to remember that our actions today will determine tomorrow’s outcomes. We should not only view our goals or resolutions as something to be attained in the far and distant future, but as something we ought to live by and build on every day. For example, if we want to start eating healthier foods, we should not have to place all the responsibility on our future self but take some accountability for our current actions too. We can’t expect our future-self to exercise harder or make extra sacrifices tomorrow just because we want to go overboard today. Life is unpredictable, and our future self might not have the capacity to do that tomorrow. We need to realise that we can use the present moment as an opportunity to make tomorrow easier for ourselves.
Once you’ve finalised your New Year’s resolutions, it’s time to begin formulating an action plan to help you realise them. A good strategy is to break each goal or resolution up into smaller sub-goals, as this can make the task feel more achievable and less daunting. Having an all-or-nothing outlook on one’s resolutions can be terrifying and make them seem impossible. It’s therefore important that we allow some room for error and improvement, and that we acknowledge our smaller victories leading up to the eventual, larger goal.
A vital part of setting your action plan into motion involves making the necessary changes to your environment. There is a well-known saying that goes “you cannot heal in the same environment where you got sick,” and this applies to any major change you’d like to see in your life. Eliminate objects of distraction and temptation from your work and living spaces. Avoid the places and people that no longer serve you or your purpose.
Building good habits
When we make New Year’s resolutions, we aren’t just thinking about the future, but also about the past. We set resolutions in place when we become conscious of past or present habits that are preventing us from reaching our full potential. The goal is not only to break old, bad habits, but also to build the new and better ones. Once we’ve formulated a clear action plan with identifiable steps, we need to ensure that they are carried out routinely so that they become a part of our every-day schedule – and over time, a habit. It can be useful to set reminders, which can be written down and placed strategically in a space where we know we’ll see them every day.
It’s normal to feel disappointed when we don’t achieve something we set out to achieve. However, we need to remember that being too harsh or critical of ourselves can significantly affect our self-confidence and mental health. That’s why we need to try and be kinder to ourselves and remember that we are only human. We are not perfect, and there will be some days that are more difficult, and some that are easier. What is important is that we learn the art of self-forgiveness and perseverance, so that the minor setbacks can no longer stop us in our tracks.
New Year’s resolutions are made when we feel there is a gap between who we are, and who we think we are supposed to be. Sticking to these resolutions is heavily dependent on our intentions, motivations, and priorities. So, whether your resolutions for the coming year are health related, work related, financial, or linked to social goals (e.g., making more time for friends and family), it’s important to be honest with yourself about the reasons as to why you want to achieve them. When you keep them real, they’re far easier to keep alive.
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