How to set New Year’s Resolutions that are Simple and Positive
Happy New Year! I hope your 2022 is off to a great start!
So let’s talk about New Year’s Resolutions. Not everyone loves them and most of us never keep them. It’s estimated that about 80% of new years resolutions fail, many as early as February. Ew, failure. So why do we set them in the first place?
Well, 4,000 years of history could have something to do with it. As early as the Ancient Babylonians promises or resolutions to the gods were made in order to gain favor for the coming year. Today we make promises to ourselves in the hope that we might create positive change in our lives and gain control of our experiences.
This may be the reason that many of our resolutions fail. Change is always happening and we can’t always control it. Much of life is about navigating the ups and downs of our circumstances and our own minds and being flexible enough to adapt. So when we try to add rigid resolutions to a life that is not structured to receive them, things may go awry.
In modern society most of our resolutions are focused around self improvement and a hope for something different in the new year. This isn’t a bad thing at all, but if our resolutions aren’t aligned with a deeper understanding of ourselves, we might be setting ourselves up for failure.
So, how can you find this kind of alignment?
One answer is therapy, but that’s not really where I mean to go with this. However, here’s my quick plug for how therapy can help you to identify and meet your goals.
1. Having an objective, third party to reflect back to your your deepest thoughts and emotions might provide you valuable insight into knowing yourself.
2. Knowing yourself better may help you identify what you really want out of life.
3. When you know what you really want from life, it’s easier to strategize and achieve it.
4. Therapists can help you identify barriers to achieving your goals and find ways to break through them.
5. It feels good to have a dedicated listener who supports and encourages you through your process.
Getting back to the more immediately helpful part of this post. How can you set goals or resolutions for 2022 that will help you stay flexible and aligned with who you are?
Start simple and positive. It’s all too easy to become caught up in our problems and the negative story that are minds associate with them.
Here’s a trick from a well-loved therapy approach called, Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT). This approach was designed to help quickly and positively orient individuals and families toward their goals and the exceptions to their problems so that can reproduce positive actions that are already part of their repertoire.
Here’s how you do it.
1. Look for examples of times in your life when your problem wasn’t a problem. List them.
If you’re having trouble identifying what problems to address, ask yourself this famous SFT question. “If you went to bed tonight and a miracle occurred without you knowing it, how would life be different in the morning?”
2. Examine the circumstances that exist when this isn’t a problem. List them and be specific.
Example: Problem — I am impatient with my children because I’m tired and stressed.
Exception — I’m more patient when I’ve gone to bed at a reasonable time and am well rested.
3. Keep doing what you’re already doing (not so hard right?), do more of it and build from there!
Example: What’s working — Going to bed at a reasonable and regular time.
Stretch — Add an easy and doable stress-reducing exercise at your regular bedtime. As always, this kind of self reflection can be easier said than done.
If you’re struggling to overcome a persistent and distressing problem, think about reaching out to a therapist. They’re trained to listen and ask the right questions to help you succeed!