New Year, New Goals: What Do You Want to Change?

It's a good time to think about what to stop and what to start.

Posted Dec 30, 2020

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Forget resolutions — too big, too imposing, too heavy, too 19th-century. But goals? Yes!

Because it’s a good time to think ahead, a year is a long-enough but manageable plot of psychological ground to build on. Create a vision you want you and your life to be different from a year from now. Got it? Kinda, sorta?

Here’s some help to nail it down and put it into practice:

The 3 life areas

While your life is divided into numerous slices of tasks and roles and goals, let’s keep it simple: 3 main areas that make up your life foundation:

You: Your personality and habits, your temperament, your way of dealing with emotions and stress, what you do well, and what is a struggle.

Relationships: Intimate relationships, relationships with your kids, your friends, your professional associations.

Lifestyle: How you run your life, or day, your ideal day, what you make a priority, and what you don’t, the overall climate and pace, how much your life fully represents you.



Stop: During this next year what do you stop doing? Stop being so cautious or anxious; stop being so angry; stop worrying about what others think; stop get run by some quasi or addictive behavior like gaming or porn or alcohol; stop being so emotionally driven; stop procrastinating and avoiding. Or stop staying up too late, or stop eating junk food.

Start: What do you want to start doing that you haven’t been doing? These may be linked to the stops but also maybe not: Start exercising more, start making more time for yourself, start saying no, start being more spontaneous, start being more proactive, start following your passions, start creating healthy outlets for stress or creativity. Or start drinking more water or sleep more hours.

What’s the one thing that you want to stop doing and start doing that is important to you and/or will make the biggest impact on your everyday life?


Stop: Being so critical or so passive, stop taking others for granted, stop being so focused on work or your tasks, stop yes-butting what your partner says, stop ignoring your friends, stop being intimidated by your boss, stop yelling or micromanaging your kids.

Start: Making couple time a priority, start opening up more rather than holding in your feelings, start appreciating what others are doing for you, start getting on the same page with your partner and work as a team, start working towards being more affectionate, put your sexual relationship on the front burner, be a better friend.

What is the one thing that you want to stop doing or start doing in your relationships that make the biggest impact on your everyday life?


Stop: Making work such a priority, stop having your day/week be so busy with demands, stop ignoring your passions and dreams, stop ignoring yourself.

Start: Putting your relationships on the front burner, start paring down your everyday life to one that is less hectic, less reactive, more settled, start looking ahead to your future — the next day, week, month, year — so you have more control, are more in charge, are accomplishing what you want.

What is the one thing that you want to stop doing and start doing in your overall lifestyle that would make your lifestyle significantly better?

Getting going

Be concrete. Making your relationship a priority sounds fine, but you also need to map out the behaviors that get you there — date nights, spending time together after the kids are in bed, showing that appreciation. Ditto for self-improvement — what are the concrete steps for reining your anger or anxiety or being more assertive? Lifestyle — what you are going to literally give up to slow things down, how do you need to plan your day or week to make your day or week feel more like your own?

Set mini short-term goals. The aim here is to change your default patterns, stop doing on autopilot, create new routines. Send a text to your partner every day about what you appreciate. Schedule regulate date nights for the next several months. Decide that you will be assertive and speak up at the next staff meeting or tackle a project tomorrow rather than putting it off forever.

Translate your goals into small steps that you can be successful at. Work to build them into your everyday routine — the morning exercise routine, the quiet time with kids right after school, the time to meditate during lunch.

Have prompts. New behaviors, new reminders — the alarm on your phone, the Post-it note on your computer. To make these behaviors a priority, you need prompts to make them a priority.

Get support. Have a friend to check-in with who can help you stay on track with your procrastination. Talk to your partner or parent when you are having a hard day with work or the kids and are struggling to manage your anger or frustration. Do this now; don’t wait till you’re in crisis and panic-mode.

Consider professional support. If your goals are too difficult to overcome for a lot of good reasons, time to get some professional help. A professional to help you rein in your addiction or a doctor to talk to about medication for your anxiety or a therapist to help you sort out your priorities or teach you the skills you need to learn to manage that anger or self-criticism or help you decide what you want to change most.

What are your goals? Who do you want to be a year from now? What do you most need to stop or start?