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Celebrate Your 2023 Wins: Making Resolutions of What to Keep

New year’s resolutions are typically about what we need to change. I propose a new type of resolution: what to continue.

Instead of focusing on where you’re falling short, focus on the wins, however small or easy they may have felt. In fact, the easier accomplishments are a great place to notice where your talents and strengths are. Playing to your strengths in life is something to consider.

A Goal Can Be, Keep Doing What You’re Doing

Sure, no one’s life is perfect, but maybe you’re doing well and actually don’t need any big goals to aim for. Maybe the best way to spend your energy is to double down on continuing to do what you’re already doing. 

This is a great place to start the new year. It’s easy to get caught up in new year's resolution fever and think we have to make changes to improve. Well, maybe you don’t. 

It is perfectly fine to relax into the fact that locking in the great habits you’ve already established is a great aim. And maybe this isn’t true about all parts of your life, but it’s worth considering not upending what’s already working just because it’s the time of year that many of us make big changes.

Taking on a 30-day challenge or setting some arbitrary goal just because it’s trending isn’t necessarily a fruitful way to spend your time and energy. 

If you’re good where you’re at, own it and keep at it. 

Emphasize What You Are Already Doing Well

Now perhaps you are looking for some challenges because you do feel the need to up your game. 

This is a great time to reflect on 2023 and think through your successes. How did you achieve them? What did you learn? What was at the foundation of what went right?  Times of reflection are so fruitful; we can learn a lot about ourselves simply by being thoughtful about how we got to where we are today.

Reflect on what skills you built in the last year (or more) and what sort of effort it took you to get where you are. Now consider what you want to do going forward and how to apply the effort and skills of the past to what you want to do in the future. Keep in mind that attempted goals not met (aka, "failures") hold powerful lessons, too, so do not let them go to waste.

Maybe your 2023 goal was to do more hiking, and that’s been working well, so this year, you’re going to travel to hike some challenging peaks. Excellent. Or maybe you learned to knit, and now you’re going to knit your first sweater, fabulous. Or maybe you cut back on soda because sugar gives you headaches, and now you want to cut out sugary foods, too, because you know it'll make you feel better. You've got this!

Of course, your goals need not be so linear. Maybe you've developed a great morning routine that involves reading a poem a day and now you want to add some journaling. Or perhaps you got in a good routine of checking in on a good friend once a month, and you're going to apply that regular scheduling habit to cleaning out your email in-box on a monthly basis.

Release Perfectionism: Sometimes Part-Way Is Good Enough

Another consideration as you reflect on your strengths and abilities: be mindful about calling something a failure if you only reached a goal part-way. One big pit-fall on the road to meeting goals is thinking that the process must look perfect and that you have to reach your goal 100% or it’s a failure. 

Maybe it’s time to redefine success. Did you move forward toward a goal in 2023 but not get to exactly what you’d hoped? Perhaps you wanted to get to the gym four times a week but in the end, you averaged twice a week. Well, that’s consistently better than not at all and it’s a great foundation. 

Maybe this year the goal can be to maintain that, and throw in extra days here if you want, or simply keep up the good work you’re already doing. And remember that something is always better than nothing.

Said another way, something is better than throwing in the towel. Also, resilience is far more important than perfection. Recommitting despite the imperfections will get you further down the road than giving up every time things aren’t exactly how you believe they should be. 

One additional word of caution here: remove yourself from the comparison trap. You’ll always be able to find someone who is doing something “better” than you. Inspiration is great; getting down on yourself because you aren’t doing something “as well as” someone else isn’t great. You are your own best judge of what works for you.

Reconsider the “Why” of Your Goals

Clearly, if a particular goal is working for you and you just want to keep at it into 2024, fantastic.

But if there’s something you’ve been aiming for and it’s been struggle after struggle to reach it, maybe it’s not the right goal for you, at least for now. 

To determine this, perhaps consider, Is this a goal I actually care about? And, further, if the answer to the first question is, yes, consider: Why? Why is this goal important to me? 

In marathon and ultra running, and other endurance events, many people talk about their “why.” The thinking is, when the going gets tough, it’s important to have a reason why you’re doing something. Are you doing it for your children? Your community? In honor of a loved one? To prove to yourself that you can do something challenging? 

That same sort of strategizing is useful when tackling any goal. Because if you don’t really care about a goal and you have no driving reason why you want to accomplish it, chances are, it’ll be that much easier to never get there. 

A note here, too: it’s A-OK to recognize that this goal you thought you should care about just really isn’t something you actually do care about. Maybe your goal was to take on a plank challenge, but you realized part-way through that plank challenges just aren’t for you. Great! Move on and find something that actually feels fulfilling and meaningful.

Also, it's always worth considering if dialing back on a goal, at least for now, is a better option. Maybe 30 minutes of day of meditation is too much, but you could meet a goal of 5 minutes a day. Making adjustments as needed is a great skill to practice.

What This Refocus Is Really About

While it can be fun to reflect on how awesome you’ve been during the last 12 months–and it is certainly something you should do–that’s not really what this shift in thinking about new year's resolution is about. 

The ultimate aim here is building self-confidence; it’s about picking apart how you’re getting life right instead of focusing on what you’re doing wrong. 

Chances are, however, there probably are some areas of your life that you do want to focus on that require change and some dedicated effort. Maybe you need to buckle down in school, or improve your health, or heal a relationship with a friend or family member. Whatever it may be, you’ll be in a better frame of mind if you first recognize how capable you are already. 

Here’s to bolstering your own fantastic strengths and going into 2024 feeling powerful and able. 

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