Happy New Year!
Did you make a resolution for 2019? Do you normally make resolutions?
I used to love making resolutions. I’d spent a good chunk of December thinking through what I wanted for the new year, and what I wanted to leave behind. I always had a lot of hope for those resolutions.
Behind that hope, however, was a sense of dissatisfaction. I made resolutions because I was fed up with something – my exercise routine (or lack thereof), my inability to write daily, some perceived personality flaw, etc. So even as I was hopeful, I was also incredibly judgmental – of myself.
Can you relate?
When you think about it, many of our resolutions are motivated by guilt and regret. We feel bad about what we did or didn’t do last year, so we try to amend our behavior. Resolutions are a declaration of what we’re going to do differently this year – the implication being that what we did last year was wrong or deficient.
Don’t get me wrong, I love self-improvement. BUT, why do we start the year with a sense of regret?
Give your resolutions a reality check.
If you made any resolutions, take a moment to ask yourself, “why am I making this particular resolution?” Here are some additional questions to help you think this through. Grab a piece of paper and write out your answers if you’d like.
- Am I making this resolution because I’m dissatisfied with the way something went last year?
- Why am I dissatisfied?
- Is my dissatisfaction realistic, or am I being too hard on myself?
If you realize that your resolutions are based on guilt or judgment, ask yourself what you could do to reframe your resolutions to reflect more self-empathy. This might be as simple as reminding yourself that last year you did the best you could given the circumstances you faced. Or, you could tell yourself that you’re doing just fine. Perhaps you should simply resolve to keep up the good work!
Even if you’re satisfied with the motivation behind your resolution, remember this: you can’t just banish the bad habits of the prior year with a declaration on the first day of the year.
Once you make a better resolution, how do you follow through?
Use goals to add structure to your resolutions. You gotta operationalize those resolutions!
The benefits of setting goals are twofold. First, while resolutions seen normative, goals are more neutral – they don’t imply a value judgment. Second, goals (if structured correctly) have more specificity. They help you to break a vague resolution (Write more! Publish two articles!) into manageable bites. That way, you can tell if you’re getting closer to achieving your resolution.
In summary, there are two things I want you to think about when reviewing your resolutions: kindness and structure. A kinder resolution that is structured to help you succeed will serve you well.