If writing resolutions is a part of your New Year's tradition that you enjoy, by all means, continue to scrawl your intentions and goals for the new year. But this year, try to make sure sure you're being psychologically responsible with your New Year's resolutions, to ensure you're not creating impossible parameters that will leave you feeling distraught and unhappy with yourself, when really there's a lot to celebrate. Look at all of the amazing things you've accomplished in the last year, before you look ahead to all the things you haven't yet accomplished. And if you don't write resolutions because you find them limiting, or they make you feel like you're setting yourself up for failure, know that there's a kind way to to make resolutions that sets you up for small, encouraging satisfactions and it's totally worth giving it a try.
First it's worth noting that the mere desire to improve yourself and the simple act of sitting down to map out your goals for the future on paper is commendable. It shows you're looking to better yourself and have a good attitude about what's ahead of you. So if don't even make it past writing your resolutions, know that it counts for something — sometimes all you need to set things into motion is to put them out there.
Bustle wanted to talk to an expert about how to be thoughtful with your resolutions, because we've all found ourselves somewhere in February feeling lost and discouraged for not keeping up with our lists. All it takes is one goal not met to throw us into a spiral of negative thoughts. As we suspected, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Jephtha Tausig, the lists are the problem, not us. The traditional resolution format is flawed, and it's time to rework it to our advantage.
"Resolutions are most effective if they are sincere, something that an individual is genuinely interested in doing or accomplishing, and if they are realistic," Tausig tells Bustle, encouraging us first and foremost to really think about the quality of the goals that we are putting on our lists. It's important to make sure that you're only putting energy into things that you truly want for yourself.
As for creating a timeline for those goals, Tausig explains that it's crucial to be fair and realistic. "Patience is often key here as individuals often become discouraged if they don’t see change happening quickly enough," so give yourself time for each resolution. Tausig goes on to explain that it takes at least one month to establish a new habit. So give yourself that time and understand that it might take even longer to figure out the way in which you will begin implementing your resolution. Be honest with yourself about how you are experiencing it along the way.
Most importantly, once you're on your journey, give yourself permission to make modifications. Don't look at your resolutions as some magical list that holds superstitious ramifications if you alter it. "Make modifications as you need to, and don’t aim for perfection which is difficult to achieve and impossible to maintain for any of us," Tausig says.
If you wanted to make dinner at home five nights a week, but realize that with your schedule it's just not possible and is creating issues in other areas of your life, change your resolution so that it does fit! If you wanted to put 30?% of your paychecks into savings, but are finding that you're struggling to make that happen, lower the percentage. "Ultimately," Tausig goes on to say, "resolutions are neutral. What is important is whether they resonate with those who are making them and if so, if they are carefully and realistically thought out." So if it's really important to make more of your own meals, or save more money, then put more aside and make more meals, but don't worry about the quantity. What's most important is that you're putting energy into something that's important to you.
Tausig tells Bustle that the greatest cause of failed New Year's resolution attempts is being unrealistic or inflexible about them. "It’s very important to not set your goals too high or make them too difficult to achieve in a restricted time-frame. Instead, consider intermediate goals that you can realistically achieve without too much sacrifice." Just because the goals are smaller doesn't mean the satisfaction you feel when you achieve them is. Checking off smaller, consistent goals from your list is hugely gratifying and also motivating.
"Sustaining the journey" is a phrase that Tausig kept coming back to, reminding us that the most psychologically responsible resolutions are not action items to check off a list, but rather long-term goals that matter to us, year after year. We're human, so our resolutions should be too.
Jephtha Tausig, PhD, Clinical Psychologist