At this time of year we are bombarded with talk of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you made a list of your own. I’ve read some articles claiming that we are better at breaking our resolutions than achieving or even making them.
People make all sorts of resolutions for new calendar years:
And the list could go on.
We hear people saying to choose one word to guide your year and every leadership guru once told us to make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, etc). These are great little tricks in specific contexts.
With so many of us making & breaking New Year’s resolutions, I started to wonder if we could do better.
In Solution-focused Therapy we often ask people to rank how they experience something on a scale (maybe 1 means terrible and 10 means great). The next step is to ask what would need to change to move you up the scale just a little bit.
What if we extended this approach to how we plan for the New Year?
Instead of saying, “I want to be happier and yell less and lose lots of weight,” why don’t you look at how you rank how you feel in several dimensions of life and ask what small steps would improve things for you.
You may want to start by looking at physical, emotional, and spiritual health. If you are satisfied with where you are in one area, focus your efforts on improving another area.
This area is a target for many resolutions, especially for people unhappy with their weight. Physical health goes beyond how you look in swimwear to the whole body, including your heart, joints, and ability to move around. What if you evaluate your physical health and decide that you want to be healthier? For some people this means gaining muscle, building lung capacity or running a race. Other people would take a small step forward by getting a doctor to check a suspicious mole, drinking more water, dropping blood pressure or taking the stairs once a month. The human body is amazing and complex so only you can say what small step will move you a few notches along the satisfaction scale.
Emotional health may be more difficult to define than physical health. When we look at emotional health, we are looking at how happy you feel but also how you respond to negative experiences. Are you able to make positive meaning and move forward after acknowledging the pain? Do you find yourself focusing more on positive or negative things around you? These are some of the questions that will help you rank your emotional health. If you find you want to improve in this area you may find it helpful to talk about your challenging experiences with a supportive friend, use a gratitude journal, or practice self-calming behaviours.
Spirituality is an often-ignored but very important part of our lives because it allows us to connect with something outside the self to find meaning. This can be a faith journey, a connection to nature, or reaching out to care for others. If you look at your spirituality and want to improve, you may consider resuming things that previously brought you meaning or finding things that have helped others around you. Your spiritual, emotional and physical health are interconnected so an improvement here may help you feel better in several areas.
After you evaluate your physical, emotional, and spiritual health on a scale of 1-10, pick one small thing that will help move you up the scale a small amount. If you find yourself satisfied with these three areas or looking for more of a personal challenge, you can look at other areas such as social, professional, financial, or family life. Whatever those small scale-shifting things are, use them to propel you forward this year.
By evaluating these areas and making specific small-step goals to move yourself forward, you can revamp the old style of resolution. If you take it one step further, you can also benefit from keeping track of how your rank changes over the year and asking yourself each time, “What needs to change for the next small improvement.”