I’m often encouraging my patients this time of year to drop the concept of new year resolutions because…well… they just don’t work. Instead, we talk about setting a personal theme for the new year in an area where you would like to grow and develop.
First, let’s dive into four reasons why new year resolutions don’t work:
Reason #1: Your resolution is unnatural and/or half-hearted.
A new year means you’re supposed to set a resolution, right? Never mind whether it’s something you truly want or feel strongly about. And that’s the problem with New Year’s resolutions. When you set a resolution “just because”, you’re not all that into it and are setting yourself up for failure from the get-go.
Reason #2: Your resolution is something you “should” be doing.
There’s something about a new year that convinces most people to adopt resolutions they believe they’re supposed to be setting. Your kids have been bugging you about your smoking/vaping habit or your spouse calls it to your attention that you are not working out as often as you used to. You know you “should” make changes. It seems ideal to begin these changes at the beginning of a new year.
But the problem is that, although these are things you should do, you’re not yet ready for them. If you weren’t ready for it before the new year came around, what makes the new year so special?
Reason #3: The new year has given you a “fresh-start” mentality, that only lasts a few short weeks, months or even days.
Another big reason that New Year’s resolutions fail: the “fresh start” mindset that saturates many resolutions. The turn of the calendar means a fresh start to many of us. A new year can begin new habits but more times than not, we disappoint ourselves.
Getting a fresh start involves work. It includes dealing with whatever has been holding you back from making this “fresh start” before now. And if you’re not ready to do that, then you’ll fail at your resolution.
Reason #4: Your goal-setting without giving enough thought to your goal or proper planning.
Most resolutions involve huge changes to your life. Changes that require planning, support, and accountability to help you break through the mental barriers bound to come up along the way.
For example, if your resolution is to “get into better shape”, then to be successful you’ll need to take some time and give your intention lots of thought:
- Clarify and define what that means to you (does it mean losing a certain amount of weight, having clothes that fit you or putting together and implementing an exercise plan?);
- Compile a plan that will actually allow you to recognize and appreciate short term success.
- Find an accountability partner that will actually check on you as well as support your efforts.
Although these changes are possible, it isn’t something you can push through with sheer force and new-found New Year’s energy. It requires careful thought and planning (which is often lacking when it comes to resolution-setting).
Let go of Resolution – Set a Theme for the Year Instead
At the end of the day, resolutions are really goals. Yet few people treat them as such (which is why they so often fail). That’s why I do not ask patients to create new year’s resolutions. People tend to drop or forget a resolution and that is the end of the initial intention. So, what is the alternative to resolutions? Set a theme for the year.
What is a Theme – A theme is a word or phrase that’s intentionally set to guide you throughout the year ahead. They’re set by you in an area where you would like to grow and develop. I usually design my themes in areas that I find myself lacking or wanting some desired growth.
When setting your theme, it’s also important to take into account the goals you’d like to achieve during the year so that your theme can help you achieve your goals. The reason for a them? If set properly, it will serve as a guide for big decisions and when you need a re-set. And it will help you track and measure your progress against a bigger vision.
Here are a few examples of themes that I’ve used in the past:
- Daily fulfillment. Setting a schedule is the name of the game here. Schedule things that offer you joy, peace, happiness, contentment or achievement. Examples: Walking the dog, meditation, journaling, visiting with neighbors, going for a walk, yoga, mindfulness, daily affirmations, scripture, and more.
- Balance. Understand the importance of balancing your time, effort, and commitment to family, work, fitness, and your well-being. Do not allow yourself to fall back into the role of serving others without serving yourself too.
- Connection. The desire for connection is a basic human need we many times forget needs to be intentional. This means mapping out time for the individuals who are important to you. Setting boundaries with work, family, friends, and other things that seem to pull you in different directions.
There are several big benefits to having a theme:
Benefit #1: A theme is flexible and more forgiving than a resolution.
You can set numerous goals within that theme that get fleshed out and met throughout the year. And if, along the way, you change your perspective on a goal – it’s easy to change course. All you have to do is re-think how you want it to work within the broader theme and move forward.
Benefit #2: A theme will help keep you on the right track when things don’t go as planned.
Your theme will serve as a bigger vision and help you to be more willing to pause, re-think your goals, and decide to go in a new direction when things don’t go as planned. This is HUGE for me. So long as I continue to work within my theme, I never feel like I’m failing at anything but instead feel like I’m still on course (even after re-setting goals).
Benefit #3: A theme will help you set bigger goals and actually achieve them.
Because your theme serves as a bigger vision, it will help inspire you set bigger goals. Plus, because you’ll always have it in mind when making decisions and working to achieve your goals, it will make you less likely to give up when things get hard.
Furthermore, a theme will keep you more accountable to yourself as you work through your goals and make decisions for yourself during the year. Which will make it more likely that you’ll achieve your goals.
If you are struggling right now, let’s talk. You can book an in-person or virtual visit. Together, we will navigate the waters of this new year.
Interested in more? I would love to meet to you! Email or call anytime to schedule an in-person or virtual session. (817) 701-5438 | email@example.com
CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.