Make This Your Best Year Yet

By Margo Shabinsky Sherman, MSW

New Year's resolutions date back to 153 B.C. when January, named after Janus, god of all beginnings, replaced March as the first month of the Roman calendar. More than 2000 years later, people are still making them and breaking them. Practice has made far from perfect!

Failing to keep New Year's resolutions is the norm, rather than the exception. We have a limited amount of self-control, and are creatures of habit. According to an in-depth analysis published in the journal "Psychological Inquiry" our lack of success usually involves one or more of the following issues:

  • A lack of clear, specific goals, making it difficult to keep focused.
  • Failure to monitor one's progress towards the goals, with a lack of attention to one's behavior in relation to one's aim(s).
  • Limited self-control towards the pursuit of one's goals in the face of obstacles and distractions, and failure to alter one's typical way of responding.

Great achievement begins with a plan. One of the keys to achievement on this often long traveled road to success is to learn something from each time you falter: what did you do this time that you could do differently next time? Examine the obstacles that stood in the way of previous successes. It is important to identify the qualities that you believe were your nemesis in past years, the aspects of yourself that stood in the way of you achieving your goals (e.g. fear, laziness, procrastination, mistrust, martyrdom, greed): then make a conscious choice to develop the opposite qualities, ones that will support you in making this a great year!

To ensure your success in making the best possible choices for yourself, you must first insert your conscious intent and then revisit it on a daily basis. To install a new intent that will drive your every move takes commitment and perseverance. (If you continue to allow your unconscious intent to direct your life, what you can expect is that this year will be a new version of your last). Vision and passion go hand in hand: a clear vision of who you are at your best holds the power to transcend your current reality. Goals that are deeply felt are more likely to be achieved, therefore choose goals that truly have meaning for you and are in keeping with your personal values. When you are firmly rooted in a highly personal, strong vision for your future, you will have not only passion, but the drive and stamina that allow you to achieve your goals, and you will have to draw less on self control.

For those of you who are not experiencing the life you want; if you are not making the best possible choices for yourself on a daily basis; if you are bored, struggling or resigned, here are some additional tips towards staying motivated and achieving successful resolutions:

Outline your Plan

  • Write a comprehensive plan, with specifics as to how you will achieve it.
  • Remind yourself of your plan/intent by posting visual reminders (e.g. notes, emails) in your home and office
  • Keep your eye on the prize, by honing in daily on your plan / how you want your life to be.

Be Realistic

  • Do not overload yourself by attempting too many goals simultaneously.
  • Dissect your ultimate end goals into smaller, more attainable target goals, so you remain less intimidated and more encouraged.

Write a "Pros and Cons" List

  • Continue to develop this list over time, ask others for their contributions to it,and refer to it to aid in maintaining your resolve.

Inform Others

  • Attract and invite the support of others who can encourage you in manifesting your desires and add accountability

Reward Yourself

  • Recognize each milestone and celebrate your successes along the way, preferably with a reward that does not contradict your resolutions

Create Contingency Options

  • Obstacles arise, so be prepared with specific ways to overcome them - embrace change; be flexible; minimize distractions; revisit your plan; recognize your progress; seek help from family, friends, or a professional.
  • Be patient and remain positive - it takes time for new behaviors/habits to become second nature.
  • If necessary, start over again - this year's resolution to change can start/restart at any time of year.

Whether you commit to this journey on January 1st, your birthday, or any day of your choice, you can challenge yourself to a life full of successful, fulfilling resolutions. Focus strategically and consistently on the life that you're dreaming of, follow your plan, and enjoy the life that you have created!