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2020 Sucked. Here’s Why You Should Make a New Year’s Resolution Anyway.

2020 Sucked. Here’s Why You Should Make a New Year’s Resolution Anyway.


New Year’s resolutions have always been a popular year-end tradition. But after the trauma of 2020, many people understandably wary about the prospect of setting goals for next year. Not to mention that many studies show these resolutions usually aren’t an effective way to create long-term changes in habit.

This, however, is a narrow way of thinking about the New Year’s resolution tradition. Resolutions made at the end of the year can play a powerful role in bringing you closer to becoming the person you want to be.

Resolutions Help You Grow Your Mindset

The power of a New Year’s resolution lies in its ability to encourage you think about your potential. Creating a New Year’s resolution provides an opportunity to think about who you are and who you want to become. When you think about your options for a New Year’s resolution, you give thought to what you want to accomplish in life before it’s over. Most helpfully, it asks you to consider what steps are necessary to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. This is a powerful exercise which, if done well, can provide long-term results, even if the New Year’s resolution itself isn’t met.

A New Year’s resolution is only helpful if it’s thought out. Even seemingly simple goals need to be scrutinized if they’re going to lead to long-term change. Resolutions you give careful thought to add meaning to your life, even if you ultimately don’t accomplish them, because you spent time to figure out what you want our of life. Doing this is an exercise in strengthening your character. If you consider what you want out of life and the steps you could take to get there, you also work toward a better you. The exercise of making these resolutions alone helps you grow.

How To Create Meaningful Resolutions

The key to creating life-changing New Year’s resolutions is intentionality. Before you sit down to think about what you want out of life, consider talking with family or friends you trust about it. These conversations alone can shift your life in new and interesting directions. Then, once ready, set aside a time to be alone with your thoughts. Make sure you also have a pen and paper or a mobile device on mute for writing. Studies have shown that the act of writing out your goals can itself improve your quality of life. For at least twenty minutes, avoid distractions. During this time, there are five steps you can take to ensure you get the most out of your New Year’s resolutions.

1. List habits you want to change or accomplishments you’d like to make.

Include short-term and long-term goals. This list doesn’t have to be long–one item is enough. If weight loss or reading more books is the number one priority in your self-improvement, that’s more than enough to focus on.

2. Reflect on why you want to accomplish what’s on this list in the first place.

Write your reasoning down. There’s no need to write this down in full sentences. A few words which articulate your reasoning is enough. However, feel free to indulge in more reflection on paper. The more about yourself you’re able to articulate, the easier it will be for your to meet your goals. It’s not enough to want to change. Unless you know why you want to change, it’s unlikely to happen.

3. Jot down a rough plan for how you would make the changes you want to see in your life.

Note that some goals may take more than a year to meet, and other goals may be poorly defined. “Read more” is unhelpful but a plan can be made around “read 52 books next year.” The latter can be broken down into a plan which includes how many books a month you need to meet this goal and a finite list of books you would like to read.

4. Read over what you’ve written down and consider what kind of person you’re trying to become.

The fourth step requires more reflection. Is it the same person you envisioned initially before you sat down? Most will notice subtle but important differences between their initial vision and the one they’ve made on paper. Usually, the person who accomplishes the goals you’ve put on paper feels attainable, less like a dream and more like a real person. Being specific about how you’ll meet your goals gives you a more specific vision of the future you want for yourself. Feel free to add to your existing written reflection at this step.

5. Finally, set these notes aside. Don’t look at them again until sometime just before the New Year.

In the meantime you can create more notes, but also tuck these away until it’s time to begin the new year. Let your subconscious do some work mulling over what you’ve written and discovered about yourself.

Helpful and potentially life-changing New Year’s resolutions are not about the goals themselves. It’s not about weight loss or reading more books. It’s about being intentional with who you want to become–a better version of yourself and the person you want to be. Research psychologists have shown those who seek to accomplish goals for their own self-improvement, rather than for the sake of external pressures, are more likely to succeed [3]. Intentional goal-setting alone makes you happier and accomplished.

Ultimately, all goals are arbitrary and by themselves meaningless. Why you want to accomplish these goals in the first place is where you find the essence of change and the drive to improve yourself.

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