New Year Resolutions
(Photo by brungrrl)

The end of the year is always a good time for me to review my resolutions and take stock of what I have done over the past year.

However, for some people, reviewing New Year resolutions can be a painful affair. Some of you may have goals unaccomplished. A resolution review is just a stark reminder of how little you have achieved. You may feel guilty and disappointed about your lack of discipline to follow through on your goals. As much as possible, you will want to avoid being reminded of these little failings.

From this perspective, I can certainly empathize with how painful this exercise can be. I can also understand why some people think that setting New Year resolutions is just a crap idea; it’s simply setting yourself up for lots of disappointment later on.

I believe in setting New Year resolutions, though, and I have being doing this for the past 6 years. This yearly exercise has contributed much to improving my life; it gives me a sense of direction as I go about my daily activities. Before this, my life without goals was like sailing without a destination – you leave it to the wind to bring you to wherever you end up at. We only live once, and I don’t like to leave the outcomes of my life to chance.

Having said that, most of the time, I don’t achieve all my goals. I do achieve a good portion of my goals but there are always some I don’t achieve. I feel that there is nothing wrong with missing out on your resolutions and it is simply a matter of perspective. Today I like to offer some tips to help you review your New Year Resolutions guilt-free:

  1. Stop Beating Yourself Up! Most personal development literature tells us to set goals and go out there to achieve it. None tells us to set goals, leave it there and forget it. As such, the mentality of people setting goals is that we must achieve the goals or we would have failed. When we don’t achieve our goals, the resulting emotions are guilt, disappointment and a sense of failure. As such, it’s natural for resolution reviews to turn into a stressful affair. With such a perspective, I cannot imagine what else it can be. My advice – stop beating yourself up! I guess this has much to do with the inculcation of our education system – you either pass or you fail. No, resolution review doesn’t have to be this way. There are many reasons why you don’t achieve your goals, and not all of them are due to your personal failure. Let’s take a look at some of them next.
  2. Don’t Make Too Many Big Resolutions In this world filled with options, it’s easy for us to get distracted. You may have set too many resolutions at the spur of the moment and ended up with a long laundry list for the year. With so many goals to achieve, how much time and attention can you realistically commit to each? If you stretch yourself too thin, then you’ll only stress yourself out and disappoint yourself more when you have worked so hard and achieved so little. I believe it’s realistic to have only two to three major resolutions and less than ten minor ones for the entire year. A major resolution is any project that may take months of effort to complete. As such, by doing two to three, you’ve already taken up a good portion of the year.
  3. Do You REALLY Want That Resolution? The next question to ask yourself is if you really want to achieve that resolution. What will achieving that resolution mean to you? How will that make you feel? Successful people are successful because they focus on a small number of important goals at a time and worked really hard at it until they achieve the results that they want. If they are easily distracted by the next big-hit sensational opportunity or passing fad, then they wouldn’t have achieved the same level of success.
  4. Wrong Place, Wrong Time. OK, what if you have been focused and yet you’re still not achieving your goals? Look at the circumstances you’re in. Other than hard work, external elements also play a part to your success. If you are operating in an environment which is not in favor of your resolutions, then you’ll have a lesser chance of achieving it. Simply said, you are at the wrong place and the wrong time if you can’t answer “yes” to at least one, and preferably all, of these questions:
    1. Do you have a support group to discuss ideas and which provides morale support?
    2. Do you have access to the relevant knowledge, skills, experiences to achieve your resolutions?
    3. Are people around you in favor of your resolution – in opinion and in actions?
  5. Connect The Dots. Don’t view resolution review as a test where you either pass or fail. Personally, I use the resolution review as a self-discovery exercise to know myself better. As highlighted in earlier points, there are many reasons why you don’t achieve your resolutions and not all of them are about your failings as an individual. For those goals that you achieve, how did you manage to achieve them? Likewise, ask the same questions for those you didn’t achieve. Over time, you can see a trend in the things that you achieve, and the things that you always seem to miss. Perhaps, it’s simply not important enough, or you’re not in an environment conducive to this goal or it is simply not leveraging your strengths.

    Reviewing your resolutions allows you to connect the dots, which in turn, allows you to look forward with more self-knowledge and confidence.

  6. Drop Irrelevant Goals. Once you are able to connect the dots, you will start to see that some goals are just not meant to be. It’s not because you are not disciplined enough to follow through or that you are a failure; it’s just not meant to be. If you are not as smart as Einstein or as techno-savvy as Steve Jobs, you don’t have to feel bad about it, you are here for a different reason. There is certainly something else greater which is meant for you. By dropping unsuitable and irrelevant goals, you can focus on the more important ones relevant to you. So feel free to drop resolutions if they’re not suitable – guilt-free and honestly.

View Your Resolutions in a New Light

Learning how to view resolution review in a new light is fundamental to making this a consistent habit.

I’m not saying that it’s ok to give up on your goals easily and find excuses to let yourself off the hook. I’m just saying that we have to be smarter about reviewing our resolutions – and sometimes this means going easy on yourself and reviewing the circumstances in its entirety, not just at your own failings.

When you step back and widen your perspective, you will be able to make a better judgment if the goal is worth pursuing in the first place. If it isn’t, drop it without guilt and move on to something else. If it is important, ask yourself why you aren’t achieving it and how you can do better in the New Year. Beating yourself up just ain’t going to get you anywhere!

I wish you happy holidays and have a happy review!

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