This is the time of year we reflect on our lives. We think about all we’ve accomplished in one year. We think about the things we should have done -- but didn’t.
How many of those things we didn’t do started out as resolutions made last New Year? Why is it that we seem so determined in January, but a couple months later, our motivation is gone? Perhaps it is because our resolutions aren’t realistic.
Here how to make a manageable New Year’s resolution.
Think it through. I like to write my annual Christmas letter in November and reflect on my year. This starts me thinking about my resolutions and goals for the coming year. I take the whole month of December to ponder what my goals should be. By taking the time to think through my resolutions, I can make informed choices. We are more likely to keep resolutions we’ve put a lot of thought into -- as opposed to resolutions we just come up with on New Year’s day because everyone else is coming up with theirs.
Take baby steps. It is important not to make your resolution too big. It’s overwhelming and unrealistic trying to tackle something beyond your means. If your resolution is to win American Idol, the odds of fulfilling that resolution are pretty slim -- even if you are a good singer. Instead, start small. Make achievable goals. If you’re a rising star, put your singing on YouTube or make a Facebook page for your music. These are things within your control that can lead to greater things. Bottom line: don’t make your goals so big that it’s not realistic for you to meet them -- that’s a surefire way to get discouraged and end up having “resolution burnout” in the first couple of months.
Tell a friend. By voicing your resolutions out loud to a friend or family member, you’ll be more accountable. Tell someone else about your goals -- someone who will ask you how you’re doing and check in on you from time to time. Doing so makes it just a little bit harder to “forget” the promises you made to yourself at the beginning of the year.
Record and review. Most importantly, record and review your resolutions. During my teenage years, my mom would give me and my siblings a paper to fill out every New Year’s Eve. It was the same every year, but the answers were always different. It asked questions about our favorite food, favorite movie or favorite things that happened during the year. At the end was a space for us to write our resolutions for the next year. Writing down our goals made them clear, precise and real. They were no longer just thoughts floating around in our heads.
In addition to filling out our papers, we were able to review past year’s entries. It was fun to see how much we had changed and to see if we actually fulfilled our resolutions. While it’s important to review previous resolutions at the end of the year, reviewing your progress is also important throughout the year. Check in every few months to track your progress. See how far you’ve come and what you may need to catch up on.
New Year’s resolutions do not have to be something we dread. They can be more than ideas we write down and then forget about. Let your New Year’s resolutions be a great tool to help you accomplish something meaningful during the coming year. Good and bad things will come, triumphs will be made and tears will fall, but you can take control over what happens throughout your year by making realistic, significant goals and taking the steps to achieve them.
(Megan Shauri graduated with a bachelors in Anthropology and a masters in Psychology. Contact her at Meganshauri@gmail.com.)