Each year around this time, we find ourselves preparing to answer that dreaded annual question:
“What’s your resolution for the New Year?”
Just thinking about the things we want to change in the New Year, or worse, all the things we think we should change, can send the calmest hearts racing. If we’re not careful, we can “should” ourselves into promising all kinds of things for the New Year.
It probably comes as no surprise that according to US News & World Report, approximately eighty percent of all New Year’s resolutions fail. Eighty percent! Most by the second week in February!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think taking an inventory of our lives from time to time; looking for ways to grow healthier and wiser is a great idea. And if New Year’s resolutions help you to do that, then by all means- resolution away!
But this year, before you decide on a resolution (or whether to make one in the first place) I’d like to offer some tips that may help along the way, as well as ideas to develop a proactive plan to minimize the chance of resolution abandonment before the Christmas tree is back in storage.
To help ensure success, first and foremost, take an intentional approach to making your resolution(s). Think about your life as a whole; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Make a list idea that could be resolutions in the New Year and be as specific as possible, including what positive impact accomplishing that resolution will make.
For example, “Get Healthy” isn’t really a specific, measurable, resolution. But, “Eat more plants and practice intermittent fasting 5 days a week” is. Then reflect on the benefits, such as mental clarity, and physical benefits like improved blood sugar regulation and energy. Listing details of your resolution(s) and exploring the benefits can help you determine its priority in your life.
Prioritize… But in Reverse
Limit your list to no more than ten, specific and measurable resolutions. Then, reverse prioritize them, placing a number next to each. For instance, the least important/pressing/impactful thing on the list gets the number “10” next to it. Do this until all possible resolutions are assigned a number. Then, on a separate sheet of paper, re-write your top three. Now, repeat the ordering process one more time with those three to make sure you have them in the correct, prioritized order. Write the number one priority on its own piece of paper.
Once you establish your number one, you are on your way! Unless the resolutions are related to one another or are smaller/require less commitment, do not attempt to tackle more than one at a time. But keep the list somewhere visible. If you feel you have achieved success in one and have margin to add another, then go for it! Just remember, it’s a New Year’s Resolution; not a January resolution. If you accomplish it within 2020, it counts!
Finally, here’s a list of questions to consider along your resolution-making journey.
What is my motivation for wanting to make this change in the New Year?
This is important! If the motivation is simply to please someone else (or get them off your back), your chances of following through will be greatly diminished. It might be that what they’re asking of you is something you want to do in the New Year, but if it’s merely someone else’s suggestion (or demand), you’ll need to be honest with yourself and them if it isn’t something you truly want or need to do, or if it isn’t a priority for you.
Have I tried to make this resolution before?
For some of us, when December 31st rolls around, we find ourselves making and breaking the same resolution(s), year after year. It can be a source of frustration and even shame. If you want to take a shot at the same resolution that didn’t work out the previous year, first look at what got in the way of your success. Take the time to get really curious about this; promising that you will not judge yourself or be self-critical. Just look at it as research. Then write it down. Along with some actions and responses you can use when the going gets tough.
What if I wrote it down?
Whatever you decide your resolution(s) will be, write them down. (I know we covered this earlier on, but it bears repeating.) There is tremendous research on the efficacy of writing down what you want to achieve. Want to take it to the next level? Once you establish what your resolution will be, write down the steps necessary to achieve it as well as what might get in the way. Then, borrow the suggestion from the previous tip and write down some ideas for how you will overcome the potential obstacles you’ve identified.
Do I need to change my thinking and self-talk?
Sadly, it often comes more naturally to speak negatively to ourselves than to be our own cheerleaders. Unfortunately, research (and experience) tell us that our negative self-talk has a negative impact on our ability to achieve our goals. We must learn to have grace for ourselves. And if (or when) negative self-talk turns into a full-blown shame spiral, it might be time to get some qualified help with that.
Another helpful tweak to how you think about your resolutions might be to change what you call them. Just the word, resolution can seem sort of daunting. Instead of calling it a resolution, why not try using the word goal? This may seem obvious to some, but many with whom I’ve shared this tip have found it very helpful. Goals are something we can get excited about. They often come with more intentional planning and thinking about the achievement can be motivating.
Additionally, rather than thinking about everything you’ll need to give up, think about and recite to yourself everything you stand to gain. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say losing weight is your resolution. You could try this. Instead of thinking: I’m going to have to give up my nightly bowl of ice cream. Try this: I’ll get to better sleep and feel more rested by not eating three hours before bed. Keeping ourselves focused on the gains helps us stay committed to the goal.
Is my resolution realistic?
This one is tricky, because I want to tell you that you can do anything you set your mind to. And for the most part, I believe that’s true. But there may be some things that simply aren’t realistic. For other resolutions, it might be that you need to break them down into smaller steps to achieve the results you want over time.
What kind of help do I need to be successful?
Typically, we think about our resolutions as happening inside our own bubble. “If it is to be it’s up to me” mentality. But this could be the greatest of all sabotage to your success. Whether its weight loss, breaking an unhealthy habit, or something a bit more intense like breaking an addiction or changing some relationship-damaging behaviors, the wisest thing you can do is get some professional help to increase your potential for success. Don’t buy into the lie that you must go it alone. Get the help and support you need.
What if I considered something less traditional for my resolution?
We all have those resolutions we ponder; losing weight, getting in shape, eating better. For some it might be things like; finish that degree, enroll in some classes, or read more books.
But what if this year you took a different approach to the idea of resolutions? What if this year you chose something less traditional? What if this year you resolved to mend a relationship; offer a long overdue apology or get into counseling?
You might decide you want to spend more time with certain loved ones; start a gratitude practice (which I highly recommend, no matter what other resolution you’re making); or to be kinder to yourself. (Which, by the way doesn’t mean letting yourself continue in destructive habits. It means loving yourself enough to get the help to make the changes you need, while having grace for yourself in the process.)
It might be that this is the year you decide you’re going to make a concentrated, intentional plan to grow spiritually. This could be the year you listen to God and do whatever business between the two of you He’s been nudging you to do.
If that’s the case, you could start with something like reading the book of John in an easy to understand version of the Bible. Try the paraphrase-version called The Message or perhaps something more traditional, yet easy to grasp, like The Voice or a Study Bible.
Of course, this is another area where getting help is a great idea. Specifically, God’s help. Try a simple prayer (that’s just a conversation, by the way), asking Him to reveal Himself to you. And while you’re chatting, be honest with Him (and yourself) about what gets in the way of having a relationship with Him. He can take it. In fact, if you let Him, He can literally take it and replace it with His love, acceptance and grace.
Whatever you decide to focus on in 2020, may you accomplish it with clear vision; and with the presence of God’s love and strength in your life.
Happy New Year! Blessings to you and yours in 2020 and beyond!
For more resources related to this post, check out our website at www.itsmyoutloudvoice.com or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve found any of these tips helpful, why not share with family and friends on email and Social Media? Sign up and stay tuned in 2020 for exciting offerings from My Out Loud Voice. Together, we’re going to make a difference. Together, we can break cycles, slay shame and find freedom. For ourselves, and for generations to come!