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  • Writer's pictureDr. Watts

Happy New Year! Time for Resolutions?

Updated: Jan 2

The first post of 2024 is a short one - just a few thoughts about making resolutions. After all, the topic of resolutions seems very important since it echoed around the world for the last 24 hours: "What are your New Year's resolutions?" The questions was second only to "What are you doing for New Year's Eve?"

Personally, I don't care much for resolutions. For one, I always experience a sense of pressure when the question comes up.  I always feel that I have to think of something wise and worthy.

The fundamental problem with resolutions is that they force you to think of short-comings and failures and inadequacies. At the beginning of the New Year, when a brand new calendar lies open before you, all fresh and unmarked and full of possibilities and hopes and aspirations, you are suddenly brought short by the thought that you have to make your resolutions: lose weight, be organized, manage your finances, exercise regularly, spend less, be more patient, be on time, etc, etc...

Resolutions are meant to inspire.  After all, it is a good thing to be organized, to exercise regularly, to be on time, and so on, but the very nature of resolutions is to point out what you are not, where you are failing.  You must become organized, because you are not; you must spend less because you are overspending; you must exercise because you are a slacking couch-potato.  Whether you are aware of it or not, resolutions make you feel doubt. "Can I do it? WILL I do it?" Resolutions criticize and badger.  They cause a sense of unconscious dread and fear that you’re not going to stick with it. Research seems to confirm that: 23% of people who make resolutions quit by the end of the first week and 43% by the end of January. The rest trickle out of the running over the next month or so. Only 9% complete their resolution.  That’s a lot of self-disappointment that fuels negative self-narratives and actually perpetuates the problems that inspired unhelpful resolutions in the first place.

The big problem with resolutions is that they are global statements: “I am going to lose weight,” “I am going to stop shopping online,” “I am going to become organized.”  To be successful, resolutions require drastic life-style shifts and changes in habits that apparently only 9% of people can achieve.  We all know how tough it is to make even small changes to our habits let alone those dramatic ones imposed by resolutions!

So does that mean there is nothing to be done to achieve change? Not at all!  Instead of resolutions,  set goals that motivate and inspire you, that fill you with excitement and passion and a zest for life.  Set SMART goals that provide direction and achievable steps rather than a final goal, such as losing weight.

How to set a SMART goal.

SMART goals are S - Specific; M - Measurable; A - Attainable; R - Relevant; T - Time-based.

Let's say you want to increase your activity level by walking more and want to set a SMART goal to make sure it happens. Here is an example for how to set up a SMART goal:

Specific: I would like to be able to walk 10,000 steps a day.

Measurable: I will use my smart watch or install a steps tracker on my phone to track my steps every day. I will see how many steps I walk when I am out with the dog and add 100 steps every day or two to increase my stamina.

Attainable: I walk the dog every day around the block and I can do it successfully. I can succeed by adding steps as I grow stronger.

Relevant: I always feel better after I go for a walk, and when I feel better my mood is better and I feel more confident.

Time-Based: I will give myself 6 months to build up to 10,000 steps.

So ditch the resolutions and make some SMART goals that will help you look forward to the New Year with excitement and anticipation, knowing that your clear goals will lead you to success and growth and the very best version of yourself.

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dr. Dana Watts

Clinical Psychologist

Helping Clients in the Greater Cleveland Area


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