I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Not only do they have a bad track record, I don’t believe in there being anything magical about January 1st, a mental shift that has served me well. Letting go of the idea that there’s something magical about a new year means each day has no more or less possibility than any other and success is as likely today as tomorrow. If you do make resolutions, let’s talk about how they could perform better for you.
New Year’s resolutions are simply goals. I love goals; the SMART kind which are, among other things, specific. Goals that commonly fail often aren’t specific enough. Some of the not-SMART goals I love to hate: Be happier. Be healthier. Turn into a gazelle. Okay, that last one was just to see if you’re paying attention. Still not a SMART goal, though. By “specific” I mean describe it in enough detail that an eight-year-old could observe and measure the change. If by “be healthier” you mean that you’d like to plan your meals, shop accordingly, hold a single cooking day each week, pack homemade lunches and use the slow cooker that’s collecting dust, then those tasks are the goals. If “get active” means moving your body by taking walks on lunch breaks and using the stairs instead of the elevator, then “walk on lunch break” and “take the stairs” are the goals. Identifying what a vague goal like “be happier” means to you and naming the specific changes that will result in your happiness is highly effective because it creates a to-do list of actions that are the steps to achieving the goal.
Some goals are difficult to get specific about because getting specific means naming big dreams, hopes and maybe a fear of failing to achieve them. When you drill down to what “be happier” means to you, it might be greater job satisfaction, not coming home angry, burned out or depressed, and earning more money. In order to achieve these goals, you might need to take steps like pursuing additional training, searching for a new position, or starting that business you’ve always dreamed of. It’s normal to feel fear or overwhelmed about big changes like these, they often feel risky and require a great deal of energy and time. Naming fears and other potential barriers or pitfalls supports your success through challenges because you can anticipate and plan for them.
Goal setting is one of a therapist’s favourite things, anytime of the year! We can set you up for successful New Year’s resolutions.
Blog Author -- Jodie Voth, RMFT
Jodie is a full-time therapist and owner of Voth Family Therapy. She enjoys working with teens and motivated adults who are working through transitions and relationship challenges.