“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” ~Author Unknown
As 2014 winds down, I know that, for many, the year will come to a close with the long-standing tradition of establishing self-improvement resolutions for an even better 2015.
Here’s the problem—when the celebration wears off, resolutions tend to lose their luster. The data on people actually keeping to their New Year’s commitments shows that, for the vast majority, resolutions don’t come to fruition (less than a 10% success rate!). Still, self-reflection and introspection are helpful, and the year-end break does afford an excellent opportunity to pause and pay meaningful attention to ourselves.
Here are three alternative ways to productively use that year-end introspective energy and get some return on the investment…
1. Capture the Lessons
Look back over the past 12 months with a lens of appreciative inquiry:
- What were the highlights?
- What did you learn?
- Where did you experience the greatest growth?
- What are you most thankful for?
- What do you want the answers to these questions to be in the next year (and how will you get there)?
The process of reflecting upon positives, and importantly, journaling those (either in ink or typeface) have been shown to improve our ability to derive more meaningful insights. Make a plan to carry your successes into the New Year.
2. Identify your Signature Strengths
Why not turn the whole enterprise on its head and focus on your greatest assets, rather than improvement opportunities? Compelling research suggests that it’s both easier and more impactful to capitalize on what you already do well rather than expending most of your energy trying to improve upon limitations.
Some reflection prompts include:
- What do you believe are your top three strengths?
- What additional skills could further enhance your ability to use your strengths?
- What could you do to ensure your work and life maximize those strengths?
Need help identifying your signature strengths? Ask those closest to you, or try Marcus Buckingham’s Strengths Finder.
3. Give Power to a Single Word
Some people enjoy the process of resolution-setting because they favor a “mantra” to help guide their efforts as January kicks off. Another option is to select a key word or phrase that helps focus your energy and attention over a specific period of time. Make the word or phrase visible. Include it in meditation practice and take more notice of your intention to bring the idea to life throughout the year. Check out One Little Word (#onelittleword on social) for interesting ideas.
If you’re still compelled to make resolutions that focus on changing habits in 2015, choose a keystone habit—a pattern that has the power to start a chain reaction of other life improvements. Improving sleep quality, adopting meditation and practicing gratitude have all been shown to serve as foundations for a host of life benefits.
And if you still favor traditional resolution-setting, try these tips, and let me know how it goes.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and productive New Year!