It’s time for the annual making and breaking of New Year’s resolutions. Whether you are successful or not, there can be a lot of value in this process. It typically starts with the annual year-end review. We look back over the past 12 months. We evaluate, celebrate, grieve, let go and plan for the year to come. Resolutions come next. At their best, they can set a road map for the year to come, and shift one’s focus in hopeful and positive directions. But even when resolutions only last a week or two, forming them is beneficial. Many of us go from week to week, and month to month without taking the time to review what is working and what is not, nor do we take time to set or to adjust goals. If we aren’t doing these things on a regular basis, New Year’s gives us a societal reminder that it’s time to reflect on our lives, and make thoughtful choices in the year ahead. The process of self-reflection that goes into setting goals is as important as the goals themselves. This reflection involves taking the time to think over life, to review what worked and what didn’t, to explore possible options, and to choose a direction to take. Doing this reflection makes us more self-aware which then leads us to adjust our behavior. You can increase the value of your New Year’s Resolutions through preparation and by continuing self-reflection after the year begins. Here are some tips on making resolutions beneficial.
- Do a thorough review process before making any resolutions. What happened this past year? What did you have control over? What did you not have control over? How did you respond in various situations? What worked? What didn’t? How would you like to be different in the coming year? What are some possible approaches you might take to change things?
- Make your resolutions specific, realistic and measurable. “We are going to communicate better,” is a worthy goal, but it isn’t attainable because it is too nebulous, and there is no way to measure whether or not you are succeeding. Instead try naming communication patterns you wish to start using, those you wish to use more often, and those you wish to eliminate. That’s specific. Then, identify how you will know if communication has improved. That’s measurable
- Break the main goal down into manageable sub-goals. For example write down what you expect to achieve each week or month. With some resolutions a daily goal might help.
- Track your successes with the sub-goals. Write down when you succeed and congratulate yourself.
- If you find yourself breaking your new resolutions, analyze what is not working. What is getting in your way? Are you remembering to follow through? Are you still committed? Are there other factors that make this goal difficult that you need to work on? Could you benefit from talking with a counselor? Make a commitment regarding some of these other factors.
- Reevaluate the goal. Sometimes it’s hard to know what will work until you get into the project or the process. If you have not been successful, or have only been moderately successful, you might benefit from making some modifications to the goal. Consider modifying: strategies to achieve this goal; the time frame you have set for accomplishing this goal; or the system you are using to measure the goal.
A broken resolution is a valuable learning opportunity when you are willing to reflect on it, and when you are willing to set new resolutions as a result of your reflection. Let New Year’s start the process of positive change in your life or the life of your family or congregation. Celebrate your successes and keep working with your temporary failures.