Creating Strategic and Empowering New Year’s Resolutions

It seems many people are divided on new year’s resolutions—-some people love them, some people hate them. Personally, I love new year’s resolutions, and I’ve been doing them every year since 2009. During this time, I’ve come up with a few ways to refine my resolution process, and I’d like to share it with you today because I feel pretty confident that this technique may help others interested in creating new year’s resolutions.

First though, I’d like to say that it’s completely fine if you are the type of person who doesn’t like creating or following new year’s resolutions. Everyone is different and prefers to live in their own unique way, so this post is meant to be a helpful suggestion for those interested in drafting resolutions. That being said, you obviously don’t have to follow my template exactly—pick and choose what works for you, and follow your own system.

Personally, I love resolutions and goals because they help focus me and my many interests. They give me something to work towards and help me embody the life I’m creating for myself every day. At the same time, it’s acceptable to just “be” and not constantly working towards something—-especially when just surviving day-to-day can be so much effort—-but even just having one or two goals to motivate me can have a positive effect.

My method of crafting new year’s resolutions is similar to the strategic planning process used in organizations, but applied on a more personal level. We start with the big picture and “mission statements” and values, then we work our way towards more specific and compartmentalized steps that make the larger goals seem more attainable.

Remember, it’s always okay if we don’t exactly follow our resolutions or goals. Life is constantly changing, so it’s fine, and even good, to adjust our sights as necessary.

With this in mind, here is how I set myself up for the year with my resolutions.

Create a short list of broad yet empowering intentions

This list will contain just a few very general yet significant ideas and values. Considering the upcoming year, what sentiments do we want to hold close to us? What musings do we want to remember every day? What parts of our life could use a little extra attention? What’s important to us at this time? How do we want to grow? We don’t want to be too specific with these; that will come later. Rather, these are traits or guidelines we want to embody or follow throughout the year. These are our intentions.

For example, last year one of my phrases was, “Focus on balance.” This can be interpreted in many ways and helped me when I was making important decisions. In one instance, when I came across a second job opportunity, I considered that the extra job would have caused my personal balance of work/leisure time to tip too far in one way. Also, I applied this during times when I was compelled towards an emotional extreme; I reminded myself of balance and tried to be more mindful about my perspective.

Another tip is to word this in a constructive way rather than a restrictive way. Form the phrase so that you’re concentrating on what you want to do or consider, and not what you don’t want to do or consider.

Here are some other examples to help you get a feel for this:

  • Challenge my intellect
  • Express my emotions
  • Assert my boundaries
  • Trust my heart
  • Manifest peace
  • Uplift others
  • Preserve the environment
  • Practice living artfully
  • Speak with intention
  • Find joy in nature
  • Connect with my community

If there’s an activity or part of your life that you specifically want to prioritize in the new year, such as writing more, one of your guiding phrases could be “Write my heart out.” Although this is specific to a certain hobby or activity, it’s broad enough to where we could interpret it many different ways–such as writing a poem, blogging more, journaling, etc.

When I decide on my six or so intentions, I usually write them in a few places to remind myself throughout the year. For example, I write each one on a sticky note and put it by my desk. I also write them at the beginning of my journal and in my planner.

Outline goals for the year

Now we take these phrases and decide on some more tangible long-term goals. For example, what does “Focus on balance” look like in our life? Maybe it means cutting out extra commitments, taking time to rest, prioritizing our physical and mental well-being, spending equal time on work and leisure, going to therapy, etc.

These goals are more tangible, yet still not super specific.

Examples of yearly goals are:

  • Develop a regular yoga practice
  • Donate to charity
  • Volunteer
  • Start a garden
  • Pick up guitar playing
  • Learn to love myself better
  • Journal regularly
  • Take singing lessons
  • Read more books
  • Follow a spending budget
  • Eat vegan
  • Hike more

Notice how these don’t have quantities attached to them; for example, it just says “read more” rather than “read 50 books.” Now, of course, having a year’s resolution of “read 50 books” is perfectly acceptable and if we are determined to reach that goal, then that is our personal decision. Use your own judgment when setting your goals.

The idea is to challenge ourselves, but allow room for flexibility. These resolutions do not need to be set in stone; feel free to add, change, or remove any of these as the year goes on and life unfolds. In fact, I would encourage you not to look at these resolutions too often—-perhaps once a month, at most.

Additionally, we can create multiple yearly goals from our intentions from the first section. For example, if an intention is “Uplift others,” we can create several yearly resolutions from this, such as “Donate to charity,” “Volunteer in my community,” “Be there for my friends,” “Say words of affirmation to others,” etc.

These yearly goals are created as a loose roadmap, but not a rigid template.

At the beginning of each month, form monthly objectives

This one is important to do at the beginning of each month, because in January it’s hard to know where we’ll be in August, and we don’t want to lock ourselves into strictly-defined objectives. For now, we’ll just take a look at January.

Using our yearly goals, we’ll break them down into smaller, actionable objectives. For example, if we look at a resolution like “Pick up guitar playing,” we could give ourselves a January monthly objective of “Research guitar options for beginners.” This could include watching YouTube videos of things to know before we start playing, setting a budget for how much we want to spend on this instrument, looking up the best type of guitar a beginner to buy, and if we plan to self-teach or take lessons from a local instructor. Even this preliminary research period can be broken down into multiple months; for example, maybe in January we just look up guitar specs, and in February we look up prospective ways to learn guitar. Then in March, we might finally purchase or obtain the guitar, and in April we can set an objective of taking a lesson or practicing once a week.

Monthly objectives are specific and should take into account the activities and events we anticipate for that upcoming month. For example, in December, I would set fewer objectives than for a month like June because I know I’ll be busier in December than June. Or, if I plan to travel in July, I wouldn’t set an objective like “Exercise every day this month” because unless I plan on exercising while on vacation, it’s a tad unrealistic.

For a yearly goal like “Donate to charity,” we can break that down into recurring monthly objectives, such as “Donate to charity every month,” or we can just do it a few times throughout the year. It’s okay to reuse monthly objectives for some goals that are more straightforward.

As the months pass, if we notice that there are certain objectives we keep seeming to neglect, that’s an opportunity to ask ourselves, “Why am I not meeting this objective?” Perhaps it’s an unattainable objective considering our lifestyle, and we need to reframe the concept to better set ourselves up for success. For example, if our objective is “Read 5 books this month” and we reuse that objective each month but we’re only averaging 3 books a month, maybe we just need to decrease it to 3. Or, if our objective is “Exercise every day” but we’re not exercising every day, maybe we can ask, “Why is it that I’m not exercising every day? Is it because I hate going to the gym? Maybe I can find a way to make my workout more convenient so I’m more likely to do it.”

Other yearly goals we have, such as “Learn to love myself better,” are more fluid and may not be conducive to typical monthly objectives, and we may have to be a bit creative. Maybe in January, we begin with an objective like, “List three things I love about myself each day” or “For every time I want to criticize myself, replace it with an self-empowering sentiment.”

Once I’ve come up with my monthly objectives, I write them near my monthly spread in my planner. Depending on the nature of the monthly objectives, I might assign specific tasks to certain days, or I might just refer to them a few times a week and trust myself to work on them. This whole goal-making process is really up to each of us as individuals to know ourselves and make those judgment calls on a personal level.

A few final notes

This may seem like a lot of work, but remember that it’s all up to us to decide for ourselves the outcome of our time.

If this is your first year trying out resolutions or if you prefer low-commitment obligations, keep it small and simple. Create only one or two in each category and focus your energy on those special intentions. The ultimate purpose of this process is to empower ourselves and engage with the world around us this year in a way most meaningful to us. No pressure to be perfect or “do it all” whatsoever!

I hope this has helped give you a clearer framework for approaching the new year and any goals you wish to meet this coming cycle. Even if you pick out just one strategy from this post, I’ll be happy for you!

Best wishes to you in 2022! Thank you for reading and I hope your new year is full of love, stability, joy, and good health.


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