Top Five Ways to Create Realistic New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's resolutions

For many people, a new year means a fresh start.

A new year is also an opportunity to reflect on the past year and think about improvements for the upcoming year. To hold ourselves accountable, we often set goals — or to use a more familiar term for this time of year, make resolutions.

Amber Olson, LCSW, a regional director with Memorial Behavioral Health Clinical Operations, suggests that goal setters keep the following in mind for optimal success:

  • Be specific. “Some people want to kick off 2024 with multiple resolutions, but I believe it is more beneficial to start with one specific resolution,” Olson said. “If you want to make more than one resolution, that’s OK, just try to accomplish them one at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.” By identifying a specific resolution, people understand exactly what it is they want to change. Being general leaves too many loose ends and could set a person up for failure. Resolutions, just like goals, should be as specific as possible, observable, attainable and ideally, they should be measurable.
  • Keep things positive. “Unfortunately, many people take a negative approach when making their resolutions. They want to ‘stop’ something or ‘lose’ something,” Olson said. For example, a common resolution is to lose weight. Take that thought and make the resolution to become a healthier person in 2024. Or create a “Rest” or “Joy” goal. Positive resolutions are more meaningful. Focus on what can increase rather than decrease.

“It is not helpful to start a resolution on a negative note,” Olson said. “Take a positive approach. Instead of taking something away from yourself, figure out what you want to accomplish and then look at it from a more optimistic viewpoint.”

  • Map it out. After deciding on a resolution, be sure to implement it. A resolution is more likely to be successful if it becomes part of day-to-day life. Take time to identify and write down specific steps to help you accomplish the resolution. Think about what will be different after completing the resolution. Write it down.
  • Measure your progress. Determine how long it will take to fulfill the resolution. When a resolution is observable and measurable, it can be easily tracked. Schedule rewards at certain milestones. That way, if there is deviation from the original timeline, you will notice right away.
  • Reassess, if necessary. “Even if you follow these steps, there is a possibility you will give up on your New Year’s resolution. Some people will feel like they failed, but I would say it happens sometimes,” Olson said. “It is not unusual for people to have an occasional lapse after setting a resolution. But, if you want to succeed, reevaluate what your resolution means and assess your commitment to make a change.” It is possible the resolution wasn’t specific enough. Think about hypothetical situations that could cause difficulties in staying committed. Go back to the time frames – were they too quick? Give time to adapt to the change.

New Year's Resolutions

“Keep in mind that Jan. 1 is not the only time of year when you can make resolutions. If you come up with a good idea in mid-April, put it into action,” Olson added. “Just remember, if you turn your resolution into something positive, you will have more motivation to succeed.”

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