Author: Lea Zweig, Psy.D.

Blog10With the New Year fast approaching, it is a good time to reflect on the last year. How did the year go for you? Did anything in your life change? It is also a time to think about what you would like to work on for the upcoming year of 2016. Planning ahead or thinking about the future is most effective when you create realistic expectations, set concrete goals, and work on things that are within your control. Such examples might include saying thank you more often; making an effort to be more affectionate with your partner; or being more patient with others at the grocery store or while driving.

Unrealistic New Year’s resolutions can set the year up for disappointment. For example, you may recognize that you are ready to get engaged, but it would be unrealistic for you to assume your partner feels the same way without ever discussing it. Remember, you CANNOT change someone else or make decisions for him or her. You can only work on YOU.

Here is a list of tips to help set realistic New Year’s resolutions:

  • Make your goals about yourself
  • Focus on positive changes
  • Focus on things that you can control
  • Create realistic steps to obtain your goal
  • Reach out for support
  • Include those closest to you
  • Be receptive to feedback from others about realistic goals
  • Use positive self talk to encourage yourself
  • Congratulate yourself on making this step to work on yourself

Outlining steps toward obtaining your goal is important in successfully mastering your goals. If your plan were to exercise more often, then a realistic first step would be to get a membership to a gym that is close to your work, or to your home. Then, set up a plan to identify the days and times you can go to the gym. Next, hold yourself accountable and go to the gym. Finally, focus on maintaining this goal long term and build exercise into your weekly routine.

If you are having trouble getting started taking steps toward your goals, reach out to others for support and encouragement. When implementing change, it can be useful to include those around you. For example, it may help to have a buddy to meet at the gym a few times a week for a workout. You are more likely to continue a behavior if it is reinforced by yourself and/ or by others. Self-praise and self-encouragement can be imperative to change. Maintain a positive and optimistic outlook on your efforts to keep yourself on track. Your opinion is the most important of all and will help you maintain your New Year’s resolutions. We are also often motivated by successes, so make sure to acknowledge them. For example, congratulate yourself each time you make it to the gym to build a healthier you.

You may also set up an appointment with a psychologist to help you identify the barriers toward your goals. Sometimes it can feel difficult to implement change, but you have to start somewhere– and what better time than now!