Resolutions or Life Goals?

By Stephanie Camins – MA, LPC

verified by Psychology Today

2016 is now in the history books and 2017in well under way! – It’s a great time to reflect on what we have accomplished in the last year and what we want to achieve in the coming year. I know many people are put off by the idea of New Year’s resolutions. The notion that you will “resolve” to make some giant life change, a change you’ve resolved to make for years, can seem like a set up for failure. Countless times I’ve heard from the very people who come to me for help getting their lives back on track, “I don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions.” To this I reply, how do you propose to get your life back on track without setting goals. The New Year is a perfect time to reflect on self-development and create an effective plan for achievement in the next year.

Time to Plan Your Personal Goals

As those around me know, I’m an avid “New Year’s Resolutioner”. I’ve been writing and tracking my resolutions since 2009. I have 8 years of resolutions I keep in my daily planner. They are a reminder of where I was, where I am now and where I’d like to go next. I use this annual exercise to plan my personal goals for the coming year. I write them down and sometimes share them with others. This helps hold me personally accountable for my own achievements. When writing these resolutions or goals it’s important to keep in mind goal setting activities, and use a goal planner to guide you toward higher achievement over the coming year.

Common resolutions include wellness, emotional health, personal financial planning, weight loss motivation, exercise motivation, better health, self-acceptance, achieve fitness, have a positive attitude, or simply improve yourself. Good New Year’s resolutions are simple and measurable. The main reason goals fail is that they are ill defined, too vague, and have no way to measure success. The best New Year’s resolutions or life goals for 2017 as we will call them are clearly defined, broken down into achievable tasks, and have a measured outcome for success.

You will find all sorts of articles and strategies on making effective New Year’s resolutions this month. This has worked best for me and I encourage you to follow my simple system to define and measure your progress toward achieving your goals this year. I divide my goals into four categories:

  • Better health
  • Work goals
  • Relationship resolutions
  • Personal financial planning

I’ve always used these same four categories as they seem to cover all the growth areas I like to focus on. For each category, I write simple, measurable activities I can achieve and check off throughout the year. Small actionable items are achievable steps to a larger goal. Experiencing the success of accomplishing these tasks increases your energy and motivation to work toward your bigger goal. For example, under better health you may want to include a wellness plan. To make this specific you will elaborate tasks to accomplish wellness such as exercise 3 times per week, participate in four races this year, or follow clean eating recipes 4 times per week. For relationship resolutions you may include, game night once a week with the family, Sunday dinner and movie, or meeting a friend for coffee once a month. The key here is a small task that can be accomplished in short time frames with a defined frequency. Use this recipe for each category.

How to Get Motivated?

A challenge in achieving New Year’s resolutions is maintaining motivation over the span of a year. Once you’ve established clearly defined, measurable, actionable goals the question becomes, how to motivate yourself for the long haul. Plan for periods of no motivation. Experiencing episodic lack of motivation is to be expected. With well-defined goals, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is inherent. As you achieve each small success, you will increase your own self-empowerment and you will begin to get positive feedback from those around you who will notice the changes you are accomplishing. Happy New Year! and Happy New You!

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