What do we think of them? Two days ago I was listening to NPR and some career coaching series was on. The husband and wife hosts were debating whether they believed in New Years resolutions. The wife said something to the effect of "I don't believe in them. I've set them in the past and I never manage to keep them or make the change I wanted to make, so why would I set myself up for failure every year?" This struck me as a) not necessarily a legit reason to not believe in them and b) some serious negative self-talk. I can see why someone would think it's arbitrary to choose one point in the year to make a change and therefore not be into the whole New Year's Reso thing. But to assume that you are incapable of change? That sucks. I've been there, and it's not super empowering. I wrote some months ago about change and how small we sometimes have to start and how gradually it might happen. That is the mindset I would recommend taking should someone want to set a goal for this year.
I've definitely had New Year's resolutions that I have 100% not even come close to achieving. Like - cook more! What does that even mean? In the past few years I've learned a lot about how to set goals in a way that works for me. This is my suuuuuuuper basic method:
1) Choose one goal at a time (let's not go crazy here...) i.e. Cook more!
2) Be concrete about how to work toward that goal in baby steps (I want the initial "mini goal" to be very achievable in order to build confidence)- make one new meal a month
3) Catch myself if I have negative self-talk regarding the goal and try to replace that with encouragement
4) Up the ante once I've achieved the "mini goal" to continue the change - cook one meal a week
My philosophy, for myself and my clients, is that ideally the changes we make can become lifestyle habits that are long lasting. Sure, maybe I can cut out sugar abruptly for 30 days (no I can't...) but what happens after that? Some people may be able to make drastic changes overnight, who are you?? But most people I know need to incorporate change in a sustainable way that works for them long term. Spreading the goal out into sizable chunks or "mini goals" makes this possible.
So that's the "how" of New Year's Resolutions. As far as the "when," I think it's lovely. This time of year is a nice time to reflect on the year gone by - what we have to be thankful for, and what we may want to change moving forward. I used to have a practice of reflecting on my birthday and setting a goal for the upcoming year. I suppose the timing isn't important, unless you want to add an element of accountability by teaming up with a friend who may also have a resolution to keep. To each her own. Make a resolution, don't make one. But my hope is that we all believe we're capable of making positive change even if it's ever so small. Happy New Year!