New Year's Resolutions typically do not work; in fact only around 8% of those who make a resolution are successful (however, those who do write down their resolutions are ten times more likely to meet them than those who don’t).  Still, this daunting statistic doesn’t stop us from taking stock of our lives and thinking about what we want for the future. It’s a new year, it’s practically impossible NOT to look back and think about what could be different going forward. 

Drop weight, eat right, exercise, spend less and save more, quit smoking, find a partner… We basically end up with a list of all the ways we feel inadequate, and the things we’ve failed to do.

Really, it’s no wonder resolutions don’t work. How often do you feel motivated and ready to make changes after hearing a list of things you don’t like about yourself and your life? We’re not great about making positive changes if we feel crappy about ourselves. There’s research to back this up—shaming does nothing but increase stress and lead to worse outcomes (for example, fat shaming leads to more overeating).

Not to mention New Year’s resolutions are coming on the heels of holiday engagements that can leave us feeling emotionally exhausted, along with the building stress at the thought of returning to work and an inbox overflowing with emails.

This is the exact opposite of how we should approach the start of a new year. Have you ever heard a game day speech that starts with the coach listing off the ways the team needs to improve? Can you imagine King Leonidas telling the 300 how they are deficient before taking off into battle?

So this year, make a different kind of list, not of resolutions, but of times you were awesome. Print this out and every time you're feeling less than confident read it out loud as your own personal War Haka.

Use this to get you started, but feel free to add:

Margee Kerr
Source: Margee Kerr

Once you’re done with your list of awesomeness, and feeling sufficiently pumped up, then it’s time to charge forward into the future. This starts with making another list, this time a list of fears.

Why make a list of fears for new years? Before you even think about your goals you’ve got to confront your fears and understand how they hold you back. This confrontation starts with admitting to yourself what you’re afraid of, and then figuring out if the fear is rational, and how you can overcome. 

Further, any hope of success requires that you’re open to change. It seems simple but this is the step that most people skip or avoid thinking about all together because change is terrifying. The known, even if it is miserable, is easier and even preferable for many than the uncertainty that comes with change. 

So what are you afraid of? Use this template and answer the questions for each fear. 

Margee Kerr
Source: Margee Kerr

Here’s an example based on a fear of financial insecurity:

Margee Kerr
Source: Margee Kerr

Use these templates to help get this year started strong, like the warrior you are and say goodbye to the devil you know and welcome in the future unknown.

About the Author

Margee Kerr Ph.D.

Margee Kerr, Ph.D., is a sociologist who focuses on the study of fear. She teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.

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