A Guide to Achieving Your New Year's Resolutions
Ten questions to help you create a meaningful method of self-growth.
by Shainna Ali PhD, LMHC
Have you ever quit on a New Year's Resolution? If so, you're certainly not alone. According to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of New Year's resolutions fail by February. There are many reasons why you may have fallen short on your past resolutions. So should you give up on setting resolutions altogether? If you are not willing to throw in the towel just yet, it may be because your dedication to your self-growth, continual process of seeking opportunities to learn, love, and thrive. Instead of abandoning your value of growth, it may be helpful to assess the process in which you set your goals altogether. Reflecting on the following questions can help you create a purposeful path for your new intentions
1. Why is goal-setting important to you?
Take a moment to step back and to consider why you are interested in self-growth. Knowing why growth matters can help to connect, motivate, and encourage you along your growth path. Hence, it may be helpful to consider why you are drawn to this process in the first place. For example, is it because it aligns with your values? Or perhaps it was something you were raised to continually do? Maybe it comes from little messages you receive from your culture or society at large. Additional areas to consider may include, but are not limited to, your personality, faith, career, and friends. Keep in mind, only you know why you are drawn to this journey, you can lay the sturdy foundation needed to support your continued growth.
2. What areas of growth are important for you?
Uncertainty pertaining to goals can cause psychological distressi. Once you know the areas that are important to you, you can take the time to prioritize the realms that matter the most to you. From there, you can differentiate between your long-term goals (e.g., goals to attain by the end of 2019) and your mini-goals (e.g., goals to achieve by April of 2019). However, considering the various domains you can potentially grow can be a bit overwhelming. While you may grow excited as you humbly recognize your opportunities for growth, it's also possible to become intimidated as well. When this pressure grows, you may actually limit yourself in your journey. If you get caught in this trap you may find yourself stopping before you start. To avoid this, consider the specific realms of self-growth that are important to you. Examples of common areas include: Spiritual, Emotional, Mental, Social, Interpersonal, Physical, Occupational, and Educational. Don't feel the pressure to limit yourself to these, however, be sure to honor the unique domains that are meaningful to you. If you're having trouble brainstorming, you may want to read this guide on mind-mapping your goals.
3. How far have you come?
When you're working to our personal growth it may seem as though you are at the base of the mountain looking up to see a faint image of a distant peak. Many times, this may not be an accurate view. If you were to shift your gaze, and expand your perspective, you may see the long trail behind you that represents how far you have come. Think about the areas you selected above, and make a list of all the ways you have already made progress in that area. Use these reminders as encouragement, particularly in moments in which you may feel tempted to abandon your goal.
4. When you achieve the growth you wish for, how will life be different for you?
In addition to thinking about where you wish to be, an empowering practice can be to visualize yourself as you wish to be in the future. For example, instead of merely thinking, one day I would like to own a home, take it one step further by envisioning what this would look like. In this given scenario, what would it look like leading up to having your own home? What would it look like on the first day you step into your own home? When you open the door and cross the threshold, what would you see?
A small trip into the future to find the moment in which your dreams have become a reality doesn't need to be a mere fantasy. This reflection can help you connect to the purpose of your goal, recognize the benefits of attaining that goal, and the specific tasks that must be accomplished to get you to your goal.
5. What abilities do you have that will help you to achieve your goals?
Setting out on a new journey can seem daunting. You may feel ill-prepared and could struggle to believe in yourself. The truth is, even setting the goal shows that you believe in yourself. While on your path, don't let your mind trick you. Take a moment to think about all of the strengths that you already have that will help you as you persevere. These strengths may range from skills you have honed along your journey thus far to the powerful task of asking for help when needed.
6. What obstacles do you anticipate will be on your path?
Albert Bandura once said, "In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life." No matter how prepared and capable you are, obstacles are to be expected in any growth path. However, you may find yourself becoming disgruntled and discouraged by the roadblocks on our journey as if they weren't inevitable. Recognizing what you may encounter as you strive for your goals can help you prepare and tackle the hurdles when they arise. Your heightened awareness can help you improve your conscientiousness, reconnect to your values, and prioritize your goals accordingly. In the process of self-growth, you need to be cognizant of obstacles that may hinder your progression, and the methods you take to triumph over those hurdles.
7. What support do you have to assist you in your self-growth journey?
Goals require change, change requires new habits, new habits require altering patterns, and altering patterns requires hard work, dedication, perseverance, and support. Out of all of those, support may be the most important. In the times in which the others may dwindle, a strong support can help you re-align you with your purpose, and get you back on track to pursuing your goals. Support may look different from person to person. It may be the time you set aside to invest in your goal, the equipment you purchase to start your goal, the appointment you make for guidance on your goal, or the friend who helps you to be accountable for your goal.
8. How will you know if you have veered off of your personal growth path?
It's common to set goals but forget to follow up with them. Before we know it, time flies by and it's too little too late. To flourish on your personal growth journey you will need the openness to monitor and adjust to feedback. Before that, you need to consider exactly how you will keep yourself accountable. Considering creating systems to alert you when you have stalled, or have veered too far off of your path.
Your social support system can be a powerful resource in your self-growth process.ii Individuals who are close to you can help to keep you accountable, provide feedback, remind you to be kind to yourself, and can serve as motivators.iii In order to be supportive, the individuals within your sphere do not need to provide direct guidance, having individuals who encourage you to foster autonomy in walking your own path is beneficial.iv. Further, your social support system can help you to work through your setbacks. Individuals who are also persevering towards their own goals, regardless of obstacles they may face, can set an inspiring example that can cause you to see your journey as manageable.iv
9. How will you handle setbacks?
Setbacks are an inevitable part of life. Like a dance, we move through our journey trying our best to move forward; however, steps back are to be expected. Yet during these moments we can become self-critical, judgmental, and just plain mean to ourselves. However, if we could manage to be understanding, compassionate, and kind instead, we can empower ourselves to propel forward on our path once again.
With a continued connection to your self-awareness, your cognizance may help you to deter setbacks. If you know that lack of sleep will cause you to be groggy at work, then you can intentionally aim for a restful evening prior to a big meeting the next morning. Further, continued setbacks in an area can be used as flags to reconsider your approach. If you realize that simply hopping in to bed earlier doesn't equate to improved sleep, then over time, you may use methods to adjust your sleeping routine. Ultimately, you may learn that you achieve ample rest by using an aromatherapy diffuser, turning off your devices, and making a gratitude list before bed.
10. How will you celebrate your successes?
When self-love and goal-setting meet, beautiful things can happen. Honoring your worth and reminding yourself of your self-respect reminds you that you are capable of achieving your dreams. Through self-kindness and compassion you are able to encourage and motivate yourself, even in the times in which you may experience a setback. Self-love allows you to celebrate the seemingly small steps that get you towards your aspiration, and reminds you of the hard work, perseverance, and sacrifices you invested to achieve your goal. Remember to celebrate the steps forward, even the small steps, as they do make a difference.