new years resolutions

Resolving Your Resolutions (2021 Rev. ed.)

We all need to hit the reset button after 2020!

From the desk of Bobby Jepson, EAP Counselor:

Many holidays have an underlying theme that can be summed up in one word. Having just rounded the 2020 Holiday season, I’m sure some immediately come to mind. Thanksgiving: “Gratitude." Christmas: “Giving." Independence Day: “Freedom." Valentine’s Day: “Love."

We just started a new year and, subsequently, celebrated New Year’s Eve & Day. What word do you associate with this dual holiday? Many people would associate the word “Resolution” with the new year, trying to muster up some motivation to accomplish the desired goals looming overhead like the now-withered mistletoe in your doorframe.

In theory, you would think that the idea of a New Year’s Resolution would be clinically sound. After all, the entire basis of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) links the mind and behavior, trying to reinforce a positive mindset to achieve positive behavioral adjustments. However, when the common trends of New Year’s Resolutions are dissected, it becomes more apparent that this may not be so positive.

Essentially, one of the core problems with these resolutions is that there is generally little to no motivation to achieve them outside of the turn of the new year. In other words, one does not have to decide to lose weight or quit smoking because they have come to a logical and conclusive mindset. Rather, the stereotypical New Year’s Resolution is informally established, almost in a panic, as if time is running out. Some may also feel a sense of societal pressure and obligation to conjure a resolution, as a common question at gatherings is, “What is your New Year’s Resolution?” If you have a short-term goal, your long game will suffer.

One way to pace yourself and approach your goals more strategically is to formalize your goals and make them achievable. There is a commonly used acronym known as S.M.A.R.T., which represents Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, & Timely. Specify your goal ad nauseum (“Specific”) so you know what you need to do. Make sure this specificity features numbers (“Measurable”) in order to be able to quantify and track your progress. If you approach this goal in small baby steps (“Attainable/Achievable”), you’ll be more motivated to keep going. Knowing your limitations and approaching steps in a way that works best for you (“Realistic”) will reduce the chances of being overwhelmed and discouraged. Finally, just as it is important to quantify your goals, make sure that you specify a particular timeframe (“Timely”) to hold yourself to.

With this SMART acronym in mind, here is an example of the transformation that your goal can undergo:

Initial goal: “My New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight.”

SMART goal: “By March, I will have lost at least 10 lbs. by eating no more than 2,000 daily calories, achieving at least 10,000 steps a day, & cutting out soda.”

Some might read this goal and find it easy, some might find it daunting. Just remember that you have the power to customize and make it your own. I encourage you today: make the decision to resolve your resolutions the SMART way. Best wishes to you and yours, and let us all work towards a better 2021.

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