How to Do It Better This Year

A novel way to make New Year’s resolutions more meaningful and effective.

Posted Jan 02, 2020

Crazy nana on Unsplash
Source: Crazy nana on Unsplash

It seems like an annual rite of passage to set New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, most of us won’t keep them. There are a couple things that typically go wrong with resolutions. First, we tend to set goals that are outcomes, things like “get a promotion," "lose 10 pounds," or "get a boyfriend/girlfriend.” These are outcomes because they are influenced by many factors and not just our input. Also, goals also don’t tend to prompt long-term change because once we have achieved a goal, we tend to stop doing the things that go us there; that’s just our cultural understanding of goals. But most of the changes we want to make require sustained change not just short-term change.

So how can you set better New Year’s resolutions? Think about answering these questions:

  1. What would you like more of or less of in your life in 2020?
  2. How do you need to show up for this to be more likely to happen?

Here are some examples:

More ...

Less ...

It’s always best to have more on the “more” list than the “less” list because it’s more likely to prompt long-term motivation to move toward something we value rather than just away from something aversive.

What this more/less list prompts is for you to consider your values, a process which is which are part of an empirically validated treatment called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Values are about what/who is really important to you, how you want to show up, who you want to be. They define qualities about how we ideally want to behave. And they can guide our behaviour on a day-to-day basis, giving us guidance on how we need to show up.

The next question is, How do you need to show up on a day-to-day basis in order to generate more or less in 2020? In 2019, I put “more relationships” on my list. This meant on a day-to-day basis that I needed to prioritize time for relationships. This took the form of visiting family members I hadn’t seen in a while, spending more time with my sister, going to more of my son’s sporting events, texting my friends more often, trying online dating, and socializing more (e.g., saying yes more often to social invitations).

Here’s another example: A friend of mine stated that he wanted “less debt” and “more money” in 2020. So we discussed what he would need to do to increase the likelihood of that. Because he only got paid if he was at work, we realized that he needed to take better care of himself so he could work more overtime and be sick less often. He therefore started to think about how he could invest in his health on a day-to-day basis in order to increase the likelihood that he could make more money and pay down his debt.

I invite you to take some time to think about what you would like more of or less of in your life in 2020. And then work on showing up as you need to so that you can make that more likely to happen, on a day-to-day basis, in 2020.