New year resolutions
New Year's resolutions can work, if you do these four things.

There are two ways to look at the start of a new year. You can see it as a fresh start, an opportunity for a new outlook, to retire habits and mindsets that no longer serve you, a chance to get it right. Or you can see the new year as just another day, week or month, not discernibly different from those days before them. There’s value in both perspectives, both are true.

Where you fall in the spectrum of “new year, new you” to “same old,” likely correlates strongly with your outlook on New Year’s Resolutions. Every January, we hear the same thing from people as it relates to resolutions: some people make them, others criticize that everyone abandons them by the third week of January. 

Some people have abandoned resolutions altogether and instead set intentions or pick words for the year. This practice is about focusing on a theme or a mantra for the year. Often those who pick a word for the year identify the word through a spiritual exercise, or perhaps the word has come up numerous times for that individual. 

Making your resolutions stick and keeping your intentions top of mind for the year can’t end with writing them down in early January. If you’re trying to set goals for yourself for the year, your success is hinged on the details of what you do to follow through with your goal. There are four keys to fulfilling your resolutions and keeping your intentions:

Assessment

When you set your goals for the year, are they realistic and appropriate for where you are and what you actually want to commit to doing? Are you in an emotional, physical, financial and relational place to do the work needed to get your desired results? If there are other factors at play that make it impossible or significantly more difficult, consider what an appropriate goal might be given the inherent limitations of your current season of life. 

For example, if your goal is to go to the gym 5 days a week, but your work and family commitments have made it impossible to go at all for the past year, that frequency might not be an appropriate goal, unless you’re able and willing to make the sacrifices needed to allocate that time.

Goal Breakdown

Once you identify your goal, the very next thing you need to do to ensure success is list out every single step it’s going to take to get there. Then, once you’ve done that, set deadlines for yourself to accomplish those things. For example, if your goal is to learn to cook, then you might break that down into tasks like, “research local cooking classes,” or “identify a cooking show that you’ll watch each week,” and “meal plan and buy groceries for one new recipe each week.”  

Visibility

Each year, I set a few goals for myself at the start of the year. Some are attention items, some are personal growth-related goals, some are about caring for myself and others well. Then, I pin that list to the top of my digital notes app so I see it every single day, multiple times per day. January quickly turns into April which quickly turns into October, and the next thing you know it’s time to reset the calendar once again. Keeping your intentions listed in a highly visible place will ensure that you don’t lose track.

Accountability

There’s a mental shift that happens when you tell others about what you’re working toward, and when you track your progress. Knowing that you can’t just shrug it off and quietly stop doing it without being on the hook at least a little is really critical to your success. If you find yourself resisting accountability, however, reevaluate if this is still a goal you truly want to pursue. 

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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.