Rethinking New Year Resolutions

It’s that time of the year again where we begin to reflect on all that we accomplished in the previous year and what we hope to achieve in the upcoming year. For many of us, a new year provides us with a “fresh start”, new opportunities, and a chance to become better versions of ourselves.  So how do we go about making changes last?

First, we need to recognize that change is hard. Think of change as a process that involves a great deal of time, effort, and emotion. Meaning, people do not typically change behaviors quickly and decisively but rather, change occurs gradually, and “setbacks” are a normal part of this process. Many of us have experienced and overcame a setback. And the beauty of going back is that we will certainly go forward.

Next, let’s talk about goals. The issue with New Year resolutions is that these types of goal are typically framed to be “all or nothing,” meaning if we do not meet them, no matter the circumstances, then we have failed. And when we “fail”, it can potentially impact our mental health in a negative way. Thus, it is important to realize that how we set goals is an important step in success. Enter the SMART resolution or goal. “SMART” is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound (or Timely).” Using these five core concepts, we transform our goals from vague to meaningful. Let’s take look at these core concepts a little more closely.

  • Specific: By breaking down a larger problem into smaller, precise pieces, we can more easily identify a specific goal to work towards and a plan to do that.
  • Measurable: This is all about how to define “success”, and how we will gauge our progress.
  • Attainable: A major pitfall in planning is the tendency to set unrealistic goals. For example, consider the common resolution, “I want to quit smoking.” This doesn’t lay down a clear path so that we succeed. Instead, consider creating short-term targets such as, “Get and use nicotine patches.” By doing this, you are immediately able to develop steps to do this.
  • Relevant: This step is all about making sure that the goal matters to you!
  • Time-bound: Lastly, set a time frame for accomplishing the smaller targets that are necessary to achieve the final goal.

All in all, the new year does not have to be all about change, and it is important to continue doing things you enjoy and prioritizing your health. If you are hoping to make changes though, remember that it takes time, so be kind to yourself! If you experience a “setback”, that’s okay, get back up, and keep going – we have goals to reach! Additionally, refer to this SMART Goals Work Sheet to help transform your resolutions to “SMART” resolutions.

Brittany Banks, LMSW, Taylor Street Primary Care Clinic,
connecting you to behavioral health services and resources
that will improve your overall wellness