A different kind of new year’s resolution

A different kind of new year’s resolution
January 7, 2016 David Shanley, Psy.D.

Tired of making new year’s resolutions that you don’t stick to? Does it seem like every year you are coming up with the same things, and realizing you haven’t made any progress? If this is the case, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans make resolutions every January 1, and very few of us actually stick to them. So how do we change this seemingly inevitable process?

Instead of setting several lofty goals in multiple areas of your life, start by picking one value. A value in this case is going to be something that can act more like a compass heading than a tangible goal. You can practice living by this value in any moment of any day. The key here is that the value is not something to achieve, but rather a way of being that resonates with you.

Try answering a few of these questions. What are the qualities of the person you want to be? If you were to die tomorrow, how do you want others to remember you? What kind of person do you want to be known as, both to others and to yourself? What kind of principles, qualities, and characteristics are most important to you?

Some sample values might be “honesty,” “integrity,” “caring,” “loving,” “good-humored,” “light-hearted,” “passion,” “hard work,” “determination,” or “courage,” to name a few. Notice how these are either ways of being or qualities that you can strive to achieve or adhere to, but never possess. The goal is not to come up with a goal that you either accomplish or fail at, but rather to give your life a meaningful direction that you can feel good about.

Let’s take integrity as an example. In every area of your life, in every day, in every moment, and every situation, you can choose to act with integrity.   You have unlimited opportunities to act with integrity. Whether it’s your job, your relationship with your spouse or family, or an activity that you want to pursue, you can approach these situations with integrity. You can give it your all, you can put in honest effort, and you can do it in a way that feels authentic. And, if you pause and reflect on your life, you can look at multiple areas and say, yes, I acted with integrity in those situations.

Choosing a value gives you a direction to live your life in the way that allows you to be the best you that you can be. It may sound cliché, but this can be much more effective for people who get bogged down by lofty goals, or see them as yet another chore to achieve or check off the list. Figuring out a way of being and practicing it every day is not only freeing, but will also bring joy and purpose to your life. Furthermore, you may start to notice that choosing to behave according to your chosen value or values does not have to be deterred by any thoughts or feelings, no matter how strong or unpleasant. You can still act with integrity in the midst of anxiety, panic, or sadness. Similarly, you can still act with honesty, courage, caring, love, levity, passion, or determination in any situation, regardless of how you are feeling. The choice is up to you. How will 2016 be lived by you?

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