The start of the New Year can bring feelings of refreshed vigor and motivation. For many, it’s an opportunity for self-assessment and re-invention.
But as time passes and the realities of life in the New Year set in, we tend to lose our zest. Resolutions may take a backseat to daily responsibilities.
And perhaps it’s alright that we don’t achieve every champagne-fueled aspiration.
But it’s important to stick to those that are truly meaningful to us.
Wondering how to keep New Year’s resolutions and level up in the self-development department?
Don’t Overdo It
Our fresh perspective and hopes of a better us may inspire a complete overhaul of our lives. We may set many goals at once, confident that we’ll achieve each one simultaneously.
But accomplishing goals is typically challenging (and should be). The difficulty is often accompanied by frustration and self-doubt. These emotions are useful if we approach them correctly.
Frustration can help us investigate the supports we’ll need to stick to our resolutions. Keeping our resolutions helps us overcome self-doubt, allowing us to build confidence in our abilities.
However, if we take on too many resolutions at once, we may become overwhelmed by challenges. This increases the likelihood that we’ll abandon our resolutions.
We should take on one resolution at a time, so we can give it our full and sustained effort.
Get SMART About Setting Resolutions
No matter how much we want to succeed, we’ll struggle if we don’t have a concrete plan. SMART goals give us a clear, attainable path to follow.
SMART is an acronym and formula, with each letter representing a component of successful goal setting
Say one of our New Year’s resolutions is to learn to play the trumpet. We could use SMART goals to make this a reality.
S – Specific
Goals should be clear and concise. This helps us determine the end result we want, and the resources we’ll need. We should consider the who, what, where, and why.
- What do we want to achieve: learn to play the trumpet.
- Who will be included in the process: a music teacher.
- Where will we learn to play the trumpet: at a music school.
- Why do we want to learn to play the trumpet: to play in a band.
This step gives us benchmarks to strive for and helps us assess our progress.
- How often? We’ll attend lessons twice per week.
- How will progress be measured? We will aim to learn one new musical concept (notes, scales, etc.) each week.
- How will we know we have achieved our goal? When we can play five songs.
We need to ensure that it’s possible to reach our goals. We should consider:
- If our goal is realistic
- If we have the necessary resources, including time, to achieve it
It’s important that our goals are personally meaningful to us, and our current situation. This helps us stay dedicated, even when the process is hard.
- Is learning trumpet worthwhile?
- Is it the right time to begin learning?
- How does it tie into our personal “bigger picture”?
Setting deadlines keep us focused. Think about:
- The overall deadline to learn to play the trumpet.
- What can be accomplished tomorrow/in one month/six months, etc.
Recruit a Resolution Buddy
The buddy system is typically used to keep children safe. However, it can be effective to help us stick to our resolutions, too.
Having a support system in place helps us stay dedicated. A resolution buddy is someone we need to be accountable to, other than ourselves. This motivates us to follow through, as not to let them (or ourselves) down.
It also means we have someone to talk to when things get tough. A supportive buddy provides encouragement and can help us brainstorm strategies to reach our goals.
For people trying to quit smoking, research suggests that the buddy system increased abstinence by 50% compared to solo quitters.
Self-Compassion and Forgiveness is the Ultimate Resolution
Sometimes, we’ll fall short of the resolutions that we set. This is normal, particularly if it requires us to establish completely new behaviors.
New routines take time to build, and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to perform flawlessly.
If we don’t practice the trumpet every day, we may judge ourselves harshly. Maybe we feel guilty, or like a failure. Perhaps we tell ourselves that we’ll never be good if we don’t stick to the plan 100% of the time.
As said earlier, frustration may cause us to give up. This is even truer when our reaction to challenges is to belittle ourselves. This harms our self-confidence and motivation.
Instead, when we struggle to uphold our resolutions, we should be kind to ourselves. It’s helpful to remind ourselves that we aren’t our accomplishments.
We’re inherently valuable and deserving of self-acceptance simply because we exist. Reaching our resolutions is an added bonus, not a requirement.
We should remember that everyone messes up sometimes. As long as we’re alive, there’s always time to begin again.
This gentle approach will make it much easier to hop back on the resolution wagon if we fall off.
The New Year doesn’t end on January 2. To keep our resolutions, we need to be committed all 365 days of the year. We should plan accordingly and allow ourselves to mess up from time to time.
With dedicated effort and support, we can become the improved version of ourselves we desire.