Boris Thomas, JD, PhD

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Sticking to Your New Year's Resolutions?

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Whether you’re someone who makes resolutions part of a formal, end-of-the-year planning and strategy session complete with an action plan and a written document, or if your style is simply to type a couple “hope-to-do’s” into the note app on your phone, the obvious question is whether you were able to deliver on what you wanted to accomplish.  But that’s not the most important question.  An expanded perspective has to take into account context:  Whether you’ve accomplished the resolution or not, the reflection on who you were when you made it, who you are now and your journey between then and now is the most valuable part of the exercise. 

Evaluate Your Resolutions

Find your list.  Don’t just scan it and check off the completed items.  Instead, take a moment to evaluate the resolutions.  A lot may have happened between December 31st of last year and today.  There may be items on the list that seemed impossible when you penned them on New Year’s Eve, but were easily checked off within the first month of the then new year.   What made them so easy to do?   Other items may still be on the list undone.  Were they tasks for which you need all of this year to accomplish or that are focused on maximizing the whole year (“stay on track with monthly budgeting”)?  Other resolutions may be harder to measure (“try to be less critical of others”).  Or they might seem just as hard to succeed at now as they did when you conceived of them (“drop 20 pounds”). 

With the reality that there are different types of resolutions, the following questions might help you in reflecting on the ones you made:

  • What is it that prompted you to make the resolution in the first place?
    • What was going on at the end of last year?
    • What was your state of mind then; what is it now?
    • How were you feeling then; how are you feeling now?
  • Was the focus of the resolution something that you were dealing and/or struggling with all of last year (or longer) or were you surprised by something that popped up at the last minute?
  • Were others affected by the resolution—whether you accomplished it or not?
    • Did you make promises to others?
    • Were loved ones or colleagues tapped to help you?
    • Was there mutual goal setting?
  • How challenging was the resolution given hindsight?
    • Was it unrealistic and overreaching?
    • Was it too easy, requiring no real effort?
  • In looking at all of your resolutions as a whole, is there a theme? 
    • Are they primarily physical health based, career related, relationship focused, financial, etc?
    • If they fall into one or two baskets, does that have any meaning for you going forward?
    • Do they tend to be easily measured and finite or more free flowing and open? 

Celebrate!

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For the resolutions that you were able to complete, especially the more challenging ones, take some time to explore and understand what it is that allowed you to tough it out and accomplish your goals.  

  • Celebrate the accomplishment.  
  • Incorporate the practical elements of your success into your planning for future goals.  
  • Hold on to the "emotional win" of that success and use it to buoy yourself when facing future challenges.
  • Acknowledge and thank those who you may have enlisted to help you accomplish your goals.

Retool & Tweak the Unchecked Items

First and foremost, for the resolutions that you haven’t yet accomplished, you have almost four full months to reach your goals.   

  1. Try not to get disheartened with the items you haven’t accomplished.  In many cases some of them simply may not have any relevance at this point.  And in some of those cases there might have been personal growth and/or positive changes in your life circumstances that rendered the resolution unnecessary.
  2. For the resolutions that were unrealistic, rather than tossing out the whole resolution, are there elements you can keep and advance towards success—smaller more easily chewed bites? 
  3. If some of your resolutions were too easy attained, you might consider expanding on them and adding a new goal or goals for the coming months.
  4. If extended planning is a necessary part of bringing your unfinished resolutions to fruition, take this as an opportunity to lay out the steps needed and evaluate how many of them you already have accomplished.
  5. Identify folks you might enlist to help you succeed, especially if a shared venture could be mutually beneficial.
  6. And, finally, if you have big goals for next year, it won't hurt to lay some preliminary groundwork to help bring them to life.  

Okay, back to the present!  The Fall Equinox occurs on September 23rd this year.  So, whether you’re enjoying a vacation that included the Labor Day holiday, or you’ve returned to work, there is still more summer to enjoy!

-BT

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