4 Tips for Writing Better New Year’s Resolutions

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4 Tips for Writing Better New Year's Resolutions

I love a good New Year’s Resolution! I know they often get a bad rap, but I think there’s something to be said about the desire to want to improve oneself.

Over the years, I’ve made some resolutions that I feel really have bettered or improved my life in some way. I’ve also made some resolutions that I failed miserably at. As I’ve been pondering the New Year, I wanted to share a few of my observations about how to write solid resolutions.

Tip #1: Avoid Resolutions that Require Perfectionism

One of my resolutions this year was to floss every day. So what happened in February, when I forgot one night and broke the streak? Well, I’d obviously failed so what was the point of continuing?

I have seen other resolutions like this too – maybe you’ve even written them. They might include a running streak (where you run every day for a year, without a day off) or take a picture every day and post to social media.

Compare this to the resolution I made for myself in 2015: to serve someone else for at least an hour once a week. I wanted to build the habit of service to others, but I left it very open-ended. It was a great adventure! One week, I drove a friend to a dental appointment. Several times, I made and delivered meals to friends in need. A few weeks I even surpassed my goal (like the week I volunteered at our church’s VBS). I was more successful with this resolution than my flossing one because it didn’t have a daily requirement. I also didn’t state how I had to serve every week that year, just that it get done.

Tip #2: Connect Your Resolutions to Your Core Values

For 2016, my primary resolution was to organize my family’s photos. Preserving my family’s memories matters a great deal to me. As a young child, looking through my family’s photo albums was a favorite past time. After my grandmother passed away, I was grateful she’d recorded decades of notes in guest books. I want to be able to chronicle memories like these for my kids, too. Besides this, I’ve come to really love photography and I want a place to showcase that.

Whether it’s to get fit, or get your house decluttered, you should be able to firmly state why the resolution matters to you.

Tip #3: Avoid Being Vague

A couple years, I toyed with the idea of coming up with a word theme for the year. This is a cool idea, but I think it’s also important you flesh out how you intend to live it out.

In my experience, vagueness doesn’t get results. How will you measure your success at the end of the year? For example, in past years I’ve written the same resolution: figure out a budget. Even though that sounds pretty concrete, it’s apparent to me I needed to have fleshed this resolution out a bit more. (Which I may do for the year ahead!)

Consider the following resolutions – which are more compelling?

  • Get healthier versus train for and complete a 10K.
  • Eat better versus meet with a dietician monthly.
  • Get organized versus declutter the house from top to bottom by March 31.
  • Read more versus read one book per month.

Get the idea? Set your goal up in such a way that you’ll KNOW it when you’ve achieved it.

Tip #4: Choose 1 to 3 Resolutions, Tops

Probably one of my most successful resolutions was written in 2009. It was this: start a blog. It was also the only resolution I set for myself that year. I always have lots to strive for, but I find the times I’m most successful are the times I laser-focus on one or two things at a time.

If you wrote 20 resolutions this year, I bet there’s a good chance many of them were forgotten about. This year I challenge you: come up with a short list of resolutions. One would be awesome. But if you can’t decide, keep your list to no more than three. Set yourself up for success by choosing the resolution(s) that speak to you the most.

Now it’s your turn: I’d love to hear about the resolutions you’ve kept and the ones you didn’t meet. What is your best tip for writing resolutions that stick? What are your resolutions for the year ahead? Leave a comment below!