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3 Tips to Optimize Your 2021 New Year’s Resolutions

Use promise for the vaccine and New Year to prepare for your post-COVID self.

It’s the end of another year, but we’ll all be counting down the final moments of 2020 like no other year before. The New Year always provides a sense of renewal and opportunity. However, the New Year that is approaching has increased meaning for all of us given the pandemic, political, and societal stressors of 2020. And, paradoxically, the awfulness of 2020 may help us achieve our goals in 2021.

Carrie Kennedy
How I feel about 2020 versus my hopes for 2021
Source: Carrie Kennedy

If you are reading this, you are a survivor of the extreme stressors presented to us this year. It’s hard to comprehend the breadth of stressors much of the population has faced/is facing during the pandemic. Homeschooling while also trying to work, loss of employment, deaths of friends and family, personal illness, quarantines and restriction of movement, severe financial hardship, a hectic political landscape, civil unrest, and natural disasters are just some of the offerings of 2020. But if you’ve made it this far, you have tangible proof that you are strong, resourceful and able to tackle problems and hardships. And with a vaccine on the horizon, we can literally all see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It can be pretty easy to view ourselves in extremes, polarizing negative views of ourselves due to experiencing personal difficulties this year. Remember that if you are reading this, you have made it this far. It doesn’t matter if you did it flawlessly (none of us did, no matter what impression our social media sites give). In other words, if you have survived the stressors of 2020, you can make it through the final phases of the nation’s pandemic recovery. And, setting some goals for yourself can help you during the recovery period and set you up for success once we start emerging from the pandemic.

Now is a great time to think about where you want to be after COVID. With the hope provided by the vaccine and the proof that you had to be strong and resilient to make it this far, you can add the motivation boost that comes with every New Year to maximize the chances that you will stick with your resolutions.

The following are variables that are involved with resolution success.

Set an overarching goal (e.g., get healthier, get a new job) and then set achievable and measurable steps to achieve the goal. If you are trying to get a new job, for example, steps could include getting your resume ready, creating a profile on social media sites designed for careers and job searching, doing research on places you might want to work, doing active job searches, etc. Success towards the overarching goal through the achievement of smaller steps to get there makes people more likely to stick with the process and achieve the goal.

Make your resolution realistic. Many of us want to be brilliant, ironman billionaires. Alas, for most of us, this isn’t going to work out. What is actually within your grasp? Create of series of steps and subgoals and work towards that. If you want to lose a lot of weight, for example, maybe a 20-pound weight loss in increments of five pounds is the best place to start, as opposed to trying to get to a size 2.

Make your resolution measurable. Ambiguous goals (e.g., get healthier, improve finances) make poor resolutions in and of themselves. Getting healthier or improving finances are great overarching goals, but they need achievable and measurable steps to help you get there. For example, if finances are your goal, go through your debts and priorities and make a detailed plan to get there. Make the milestones concrete (for example, work with the utility company to pay off the overdue electric bill, or pay a specific amount above the minimum payment monthly in order to pay off the credit card bill). As you tick off specific bills, debt, or meet investment milestones, you will not only gradually achieve your overarching goal, but you will be able to celebrate victories and observe progress along the way. The act of recognizing success as it occurs makes it more likely that you will continue to build on the progress.

2020 has been a rough year, but the entire nation is on the cusp of change. Be kind to yourself. Set some realistic goals. Celebrate small accomplishments. And use the current perfect storm of vaccine hope and the clean slate of the New Year to gain momentum to start off 2021 and prepare for your post-COVID self.