Keeping Our New Year's Resolutions

Erica Schulz, Psy.D., LPC, NCC, CADC, ext. 334

It's a new year and a time in which we set resolutions to work toward over the next twelve months. Unfortunately, many of these resolutions will go by the wayside early on in the year. So how do we turn our good intentions into results?


One thing we can do is set achievable goals. We often expect a great deal from ourselves and then get disappointed when we cannot deliver. Setting smaller, achievable resolutions will make the task seem less daunting and will allow us the opportunity to have some success. There is nothing more motivating to keep working toward our goals than seeing the positive results of our hard work. If we are waiting for long-term goals to pay off without some small successes along the way we may give up.


Additionally, the language we use when talking about our resolutions could also be impacting our success. There is a difference between stating "I will try...." and "I will do ...". To try implies that we would really like to do something but we may not believe in our ability to succeed1. It will be easier to reach our goals if we strongly believe we can.

It is also important that we forgive ourselves for our setbacks. If bad habits were easy to change, we would not wait until the new year to try to change them. Changing our behavior is difficult and something that takes time and effort. When stressed, we revert back to old and familiar behaviors. If, at this time, we give up, all of our hard work is lost. If instead we can forgive ourselves and get back on track, we can still make great progress.


Sometimes we get in our own way of creating the positive change in our lives. The goals we set for ourselves are achievable if we can be realistic on what we expect from ourselves, believe in our own abilities, and are easier on ourselves when we make mistakes.


1 Mosak, H. (1977). What patients say and what they mean. In On Purpose: Collected Papers of Harold H. Mosak, PhD. (pp. 172-182). Chicago, IL: Alfred Adler Institute. (Reprinted from American Journal of Psychotherapy, 1971, 25(3), 428-436).