OPINION: How to Make New Year's Resolutions Worth Your Time


The beginning of a new year is a great time to decide how you want your next year to unfold

A New Year's resolution is the popular tradition where someone decides at the beginning of the year to continue good habits, changes bad habits, or to achieve new goals. Resolutions made every January often fizzle like old New Year's Eve sparklers but New Year's resolutions can also lead to exciting and life changing events if they are chosen thoughtfully.

The end of each year is an opportunity to celebrate our successes, think about the challenges the last year brought us, and decide how we want the year before us to unfold. 

When we honestly examine our lives we can often find areas that need some amount of improvement. The most effective way to improve is by focusing on developing and maintaining good habits.

Habits are actions that we repeat. The creation of good habits is one of the best gifts that you can give yourself and those you love. 

For several years I have used the following methods at the beginning of each year to help me choose good habits to develop and worthwhile New Year's resolutions. Using these methods also help me have a higher chance of success of sticking with my resolutions after I make them.

Write a Letter to Yourself: One method that I have found useful when making New Year's resolutions is writing a letter to myself. 

Writing a letter to yourself gives you a chance to acknowledge all of your hard work and successes in the past year. It also helps you examine more complicated aspects of your life that would benefit from good habits like your career, finances, and health. Doing this has helped me think more clearly about my habits and helped me set realistic goals based on my experiences over the past year.

When you write a letter to yourself include some of the difficulties that you faced in the past year. This will often lead to you seeing that similar difficulties in the future might be avoided or reacted to in a better way. You are then able to plan what you will do if your next year reveals the same issues.

If you aren't satisfied with your career then your letter might include some events or thoughts that led to this dissatisfaction. You could then write about what you can do in the next year to make your career situation better. Should you change a habit so that your current career is more satisfying or is the career what needs to change? 

Writing a letter to yourself gives you a chance to explore things about your life that only you would know and to decide how you want the next chapter in your life to look. It might lead you to work on your relationship with your coworkers, get more education, or even switch careers. Rereading the letter throughout the year will help you remember your plan and stay on track to meet your goals.

Creating Realistic and Specific Resolutions: One of the reasons some of my past New Year resolutions failed was that they were not reasonable. If you haven't run in the last year saying you are going to run a marathon by June might be woefully unrealistic. 

Your resolutions should be as specific as possible and should take into account your circumstances throughout the past year. Writing a letter to yourself can help you get a better sense of patterns in your life that might keep occurring and reveal the challenges you are likely to continue to face over the next year.

If your resolutions involve reaching especially difficult goals be sure to break those goals down into smaller parts to keep it more reasonable. Seeing your progress as you complete the smaller parts will also give you reasons to celebrate your successes and help keep you motivated to reach your ultimate goals.

Choose Three Words to Focus On: Life can get hectic and seem to move unnaturally fast at times. Sometimes it makes more sense to just focus on aspirational words instead of writing out resolutions. 

Having specific positive words to focus on during stressful and difficult times can help you better guide how you want your life to be.

 Taking the example used earlier, if you experienced dissatisfaction with your career in the past year because you had no chance for career growth you might choose the word "Growth" as one of your words.

Focusing on your three chosen words will help keep focused and help you to make hard decisions like having an uncomfortable conversation with your boss, switching employers, or even switching careers.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to celebrate the successes as well as examine the challenges of last year and the year ahead. As 2023 begins consider taking the time to think about what kind of life you want to live this year so that you can increase the chances of having the best year of your life yet.

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