What are the most common mistakes we make when doing a New Year’s Resolution?

The most common mistakes are to define yourself by your weaknesses rather than your strengths. For example do not use your  New Year’s Resolution as a way to criticize yourself for example by saying ” I am no good unless I lose 10 pounds, so my resolution is to lose 10 pounds.”  It would be better to define yourself by your strengths and to create goals that build on those. For example you might say "I love to dance so I will sign up for a ballet class in the New Year and I also love fresh fruits so I will make fresh smoothies for breakfast 3 times a week." These goals build on what you already love to do, rather than beating yourself up for weaknesses.

What are the psychological effects of making a New Year’s Resolution?

Making a set up resolutions for the New Year can be one of the most powerful tools for change. It is like creating a mission statement and providing a direction and focus for our time. It helps us decide what is important to us, what we value and to try to live up to our own highest standards.

Does making a New Year’s Resolution make us feel more self-assured to face the New Year? Why?

I think of a New Year’s Resolution as like a GPS - it can help us remember where we are going. There is the old saying,” If you don't know where you are going, you will never get there.” A resolution sets up a destination that you are trying to reach and gives you the confidence to direct your time and energy toward achieving your personal goals.

Does making a New Year’s Resolution help you avoid the guilt of the things that went wrong? Why?

Yes, they help us avoid the guilt because it is like an airplane that gets off course -- the pilot is alerted that they are off course and re-navigates to get back on course. We can stop feeling guilty about being off course if we are committed to getting back on track as soon as we realize what has happened

Does this have any effects on our self-esteem?

Yes, if we can understand self-esteem as the commitment to always seek clarity about our own personal mission statement and to continue to work toward honoring our personal mission statement. Perfectionism is NOT self-esteem, in fact feeling like you have to be perfect can lead to depression not to healthy self-esteem

When can we say that we have done a useful or a useless New Year’s Resolution? What are the parameters of a good evaluation?

A good resolution is useful if it is likely that you can follow it. It has to include small behaviors that you will likely follow. Also your resolution has to be in line with what is really important to you. If your kids are the most important thing to you and you work full time, it is not in line with your values to say I will go to the gym for 2 hours every day because you will compromise your value of spending time with your family. Instead you might say, I will plan 2 family hikes a week and monthly soccer games with the neighbors. Both get you moving but one is in line with what is really important to you.


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Dr. Lara Honos-Webb is a worldwide ADD expert and offers ADD coaching.  She is a clinical psychologist and author of The Gift of ADHD, The Gift of ADHD Activity Book, The Gift of Adult ADD, The ADHD Workbook for Teens and Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life.

About the Author

Dr. Lara Honos-Webb

Lara Honos-Webb, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of multiple books.

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