The Ultimate Guide to New Year's Resolutions
Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC
It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect on your past year and set your intentions for the upcoming year. As I’ve been having these discussions with clients and friends, I’ve noticed a common theme in conversations. “I can’t wait for this year to be over, I need a fresh start, good riddance 2017”
Being a therapist as well as a self-proclaimed avid new year’s ‘Resolutioner’, I started thinking about the powerful emotions behind these statements and the influence this negative language has on our thoughts, feelings and actions moving forward into the coming year. Of course, January 1st is an arbitrary day to set your yearly goals. It could really be any day, but we’ve all become accustomed to the concept of New Year’s Resolutions. Love them or hate them, they’re everywhere at this time of year: news shows, Facebook, articles like the one I’m writing now, conversations at Starbucks. You name it. We are a goal driven society.
My goal in sharing a Resolution article this year is to change the way you think about a “New Year” and what it represents to you. I’m going to take you through a series of questions to create a meaningful story of 2017. We will also evaluate the goals you had or did not have and create a positive and realistic set of personal goals for 2018.
I want to share with you my own journey this year as a guide post for these questions. I use this time of year to look back at the resolutions I wrote down for the previous year. I check off those that I accomplished and I contemplate what barriers I encountered in not attaining the others. Sometimes the resolution gets carried over and sometimes it is eliminated as it was no longer important or the barriers were not in my control to remove or work around.
As I contemplate my resolutions and my own year, I referred back to my article “Life Goals 2017”. I described my formula for writing my resolutions which includes four categories that I have used for many years as my guidepost:
- Better health goals
- Professional goals
- Relationship resolutions
- Personal financial planning
As I was looking back over the years in my resolution journal, I realized that at the core of what I have achieved is an uncompromising priority to incorporate self-care into every day in some form. Taking care of myself physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually has helped me continue to stay on track while accomplishing these goals through some tough years.
Sometimes your goals may take longer. They may be accomplished through a different path than you originally thought or you may be guided to an altogether different goal that fits better with your current circumstances. In the end, don’t punish yourself for those goals you have not accomplished, rather, celebrate all that you did accomplish, even in the face of life’s trials, tribulations and tragedies.
I had a very difficult start to 2017 with my youngest daughter becoming critically ill. We spent many weeks in the ICU and had major surgery. My resolution list of course was nowhere in my mind during all of this. I knew after coming out of this crisis, I would probably have to pare down my 2017 goals. In actuality, I accomplished the majority of what was on my list as well as some that I’d been trying to tackle for years.
When I’m successful with self-care I am able to maintain motivation, increase creativity and improve my relationships. This, in turn, increases a sense of confidence and empowerment which again adds to positive momentum.
Whatever it is that leads you to statements such as “Please let this awful year come to an end”, take a moment to reassess what is real and what is exaggerated. The language we use is powerful. In the following list of 15 questions, I encourage you to use positive language without the drama, black and white thinking and 'catastrophizing', that we so commonly go to when we are feeling discouraged or down:
- What went well in your life last year?
- What did you struggle with?
- Where did you fall short?
- Where did you go over and above?
- What circumstances blocked your successes?
- What circumstances led to your successes?
- Who supported you in achieving your goals?
- Who sabotaged your goals?
- In what ways did you sabotage yourself?
- How can you adjust your goals to give yourself the best chance for success next year?
- What are your core values?
- Do your goals reflect these core values?
- Are they your goals or someone else’s?
- What was your biggest surprise this year?
- How did you handle it?
Now list your resolutions that were intended for 2017, even if they were only thoughts in your head or general goals:
- Identify which of these resolutions you accomplished, even if only partially.
- Identify the goals you didn’t accomplish and why.
Review all of this information and formulate your 2018 resolutions. I will continue to use my four categories, but this year I will also highlight the four areas of self-care, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual, that have given me the strength and fortitude to accomplish as much as I can. As a reference point, I have provided the top 10 resolutions according to surveys:
- Get organized
- Help others
- Learn something new
- Get out of debt
- More family time
- Enjoy life more
- Quit drinking
- Quit smoking
- Lose weight
All of these can be categorized into health goals, professional goals, relationship goals and financial goals; the four categories I use. Remember goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Start with a broad goal statement, then add your step by step action plan. Decide how you will hold yourself accountable and what your time frame is for accomplishing your goal. Keep your list where you can refer to it easily. Remember, this is a fluid document, make changes as needed.
*Celebrate each success along the way*
*Treat each year as a blessing*
*Become a seeker of positivity*
I've created a helpful e-book:
Boundaries in Relationships