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New Year, New Resolution

Whether you are at the lake or not, January is a good time to reflect on how you are doing personally, professionally, financially, and socially. You owe it to yourself to take some time and truly reflect on your past year. Are you where you wanted to be? Did you accomplish the things you set out to? If you are like most people, you probably succeeded sometimes, but not as often as you would like to. The New Year is a time for looking back to the past, and also a time to look forward to the coming year. It's a time to reflect on the changes we want, or need, to have the motivation to move forward. Many of us choose to make a New Years resolution to improve something about ourselves after reflecting on the past year.

Why do we celebrate New Year's Eve, and why do we make resolutions? The tradition of making resolutions is as old as New Year's celebrations. The Babylonians celebrated New Years Day over four thousand years ago, although their celebration was in March rather than in January, coinciding with the spring planting of crops. This tradition is continued in our New Year’s celebrations today.

It's hard not to get the urge to make a resolution on New Year's Eve. There's a sense of renewal, of rebirth, and the guilt of knowing that you ate your own weight in chocolate during the holidays. OK, last year's resolutions didn't make it past the first week of January, but this year's going to be different! Are you determined that this year you'll keep those New Year's Resolutions? Here are a few goal setting and keeping tips to get you started!

Most people don't know how to make a reasonable resolution, which is why most of us fail to keep the ones we make. We set unrealistically high goals for ourselves, and then wonder why we never attain them. Then we either stop setting goals (not a good choice, but one I made for many years), or make resolutions that are ridiculously easy to keep. The trick to making and keeping resolutions is setting achievable goals. Resolutions that come from your heart and expectations you can live with are key. The interesting thing about New Year’s Resolutions is that once you’ve had a few successful experiences with them, they become a ritual you look forward to, rather than dread.

Here is a way to organize your goal setting for the New Year. When you are ready to think about your resolution get a piece of paper and a pencil and find a quiet place to work. On the paper write down the following headers:

  • Personal

  • Professional

  • Financial

  • Social

Under the Personal heading sketch out your family goals, or your health and life changing goals, such as breaking a bad habit. Under the Professional heading, draft goals for your work or education. Under Financial, write any goals related to controlling your financial security. Finally, under the Social section, list goals that include ways you can help others. Remember, when writing goals, be specific, and include measurable and obtainable desired results.

Once you have your sections filled in with your goals, you need to do two more things. First, plan how you are going to accomplish your goals. Second, identify a specific date to accomplish your goals. Without these last two items, you may find yourself looking back next January and wondering why you were not a successful as you would have liked.

Remember, this document is only good if it is used. Put it somewhere you will be able to find it and refer to it frequently. Before making big decisions, refer to the list to verify whether your decision brings you closer to some or all of your goals. If not, then either modify your goal or make a different decision.

Don't try to accomplish everything at once! There's a temptation, with the New Year, to create a list of everything we've ever wanted to change. You'll have a better chance of fulfilling one or two goals than you will with a list of fifty. Remember, you can always add new resolutions to your list later. Take one thing at a time.

Another trick to setting New Year’s Resolutions that really work for you is to set goals you truly believe in. Don’t resolve to quit smoking, give up chocolate, or start a rigorous workout program unless you’ve already felt some desire and commitment to that goal. Then make a plan. Once you know what your resolution is, break it down into small components or steps. Nobody accomplishes anything of significance by trying to do it all at once. This doesn't have to be complicated; just draft enough to give yourself a place to start. 

For any goals you set, make sure you give yourself enough time to adjust to your decisions and to plan how you will accomplish them. For example, if you want to quit smoking this year, schedule the month of January for researching some support programs and aids, then identify which to try and set a schedule for quitting. Word your resolution carefully. If your resolution is to relax more in the coming year, don’t think of it as "This year I am going to relax." That kind of wording forces you to think of the resolution as something you must do, not something you want to do. Make the wording a little more easily handled, such as: "This year I'm going to explore different ways of relaxing." This also implies more of a plan—you will fulfill the goal by experimenting with relaxation techniques, rather than forcing yourself to relax by sheer willpower.
Outline a plan like this for exploring relaxation techniques:
1) Search for different relaxation techniques on the Internet.
2) Make a list of the techniques that interest you. 
3) Pick one technique—meditation, progressive relaxation or yoga, for instance—and try it for a month.
4) Try a different technique each month until you find one you like.
Writing down your resolution and your plan of action help you to stick to it. Keep it where you know you'll see it and be able to refer to it. That way you'll have a constant reminder of the resolution. You may want to change the wording as time passes and your goal evolves.

New Year's Day invites you to begin a new page in your life. If all this advice isn’t enough to help you reach your goals, there is a web site that will charge you to post your resolution publicly or privately ( There is also a web site ( where you can sign up to have them send you e-mail reminders of your resolution every month, just so you don’t lose sight of the resolution you have made. Happy New Year, and good luck with your resolutions!


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