Tips for Resolutions That Last

Happy New Year! We know that after the challenges of 2020, many of us are hoping for a brighter new year. Some things that often come along with a new year, of course, are new year’s resolutions! The New Year is often accompanied by encouragement to change, overhaul, and become our best selves. 

We admit that we have a complex relationship with resolutions. We love a good opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities, connect with our values, and change in positive directions. But often New Year’s resolutions are made in the less uplifting spirit of drastic shifts in our lives, fear/avoidance, and all-or-nothing thinking. 

For those of you who are inclined to make New Year’s resolutions, we hope you will consider self-care amongst those ideas! Here are some helpful tips to make the most of your self-care resolutions this year.

Tip #1: Avoid “Shoulds” and Focus on Wants

Unfortunately, a new year often brings our “shoulds” out of the woodwork. I should lose 20 pounds. I should exercise more. I should get more sleep. I should finally pay of my debt. 

Everyone has plenty of shoulds – perhaps more than they could ever accomplish in a lifetime! For your resolutions, we encourage you to focus on your wants instead. 

I want to pay off my debt so I can save for a vacation. 

I want to start a new hobby in 2021. 

I want to learn a new skill at work this year. 

I want to spend more time with my kids. 

Remember, no one can tell you what your wants are. And everyone’s wants are unique! Don’t forget our golden values question for determining your own wants versus your shoulds: If you couldn’t tell anyone else about this resolution, would you still want to do it? If the answer is no, it might not be your want at all. 

Tip #2: Choose to Move Toward the Positives, not Away from Fear

Many of our resolutions are based on our fear of things we want to avoid, rather than experiences and habits we want to pursue (i.e., move toward). (These tend to be closely related to “shoulds” too!). For example, we might decide to change our eating habits because we fear a health problem. Or we might set goals that allow us to avoid negative internal experiences. I should exercise more so I don’t have cardiac problems. I should date more; everyone keeps asking if I’ve met someone. 

The problem with setting resolutions based on fear is that while they might work in the short term, fear is not a sustainable motivator for most people. When we move forward toward what we want, our change is more sustainable in the long-term, even if sometimes it is a more challenging direction to move in. 

I resolve to run more because I want to run a half marathon this year!

I want to learn a new treatment technique because I believe my clients will benefit. 

I am going to paint more, because I love the feeling of being creative. 

Tip #3: Consider Your Context

When setting your new year’s resolutions, it is also important to consider your context. Is your life set up to make this resolution possible? And if not, how can you alter your context to support the execution of your resolution? 

Do you have people around you who will support you? 

Do you have time and space in your life for this new endeavour – and if not, how will you make it? 

What is the best possible context for success? Planning these, rather than assuming they will just fall into place based on your motivation, will make your resolutions much more likely to be successful.

Tip #4: Start Small

New Year’s resolutions often pressure us for the drastic, huge change! I will lose 50 pounds! I will start getting up every day at 5am! I will cook every meal from scratch from now on. 

Drastic change, however, is also hard to sustain. It’s perfectly okay for you to set a resolution that is a small – or even tiny – change, like going to bed 30 minutes earlier every night. Or walking around the block. Or taking one night off from social media. Small changes not only add up, but can give us a “self-care win” that feels so good, we decide to set another resolution!

In self-care solidarity,