Despite my deep commitment to personal growth, the same cannot be said for my approach to New Year’s resolutions. I love the concept of them; much like I love the sense of freshness that accompanies the start of a brand-new calendar year, I love the idea that I might go to sleep and somehow, magically, wake up as an improved version of myself: a person who drinks green smoothies, exercises daily, and never goes to sleep without running the dishwasher. It’s a wonderful thought, but traditionally my resolutions give way to the same challenges that plagued them the year before. It’s easier to order pizza than make a salad. I would rather spend an extra hour talking with business partners or friends than go for a run. I take comfort in the fact I’m not alone; most of us will abandon our resolutions before the first month of the year ends.
For the last few years, I have skipped the process of setting New Year’s resolutions entirely. If all paths eventually lead to failure, what’s the point in going through the motions? As I considered whether to set resolutions for this year, I thought about what has specifically led to failure—and to that mindset—in previous years. After all, I love a good challenge, and resolutions are nothing if not challenges. And yet, once the year got busy, those resolutions never stood a chance against my other priorities.
In one of his many moments of wisdom, Mister Rogers once shared, "You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are." I clung to that last thought—your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are—and realized I may have been sabotaging my own resolutions for years. Why did I choose the resolutions I made? Did they really reflect what was important to me?
Connect Resolutions to Values
If resolutions are not connected to your values, you will find it is very difficult to intentionally choose them when life gets busy and your commitment to them is challenged. Take some time to consider your values. What means the most to you on a personal or professional level? What concepts guide you? Where do you find strength, energy, and motivation?
Once you have identified your values, consider whether your resolutions and values are aligned. Resolutions are decisions to do something, and they are often aligned with change. Change isn’t easy for most of us, which means your values are a natural place from which to draw the strength, energy, and motivation you need to stick to resolutions.
My values are centered on curiosity, inclusion, and joy. When I looked at the alignment between my values and the types of resolutions I often choose, I wasn’t surprised at all to find a complete lack of connection. It’s no wonder that I often choose to abandon my resolutions; eating salad for dinner every night isn’t curious or inclusive, and it certainly doesn’t spark joy for me. I either needed to realize that healthy eating and exercise just aren’t as important as other things right now, or I needed to better understand their connection to my values.
Make Resolutions with Others in Mind
Connecting your personal values to your resolutions can lead to real progress and change across many areas of your life—whether you are looking to develop new skills, change undesired behaviors, or even find a way to sneak that salad into your diet. Don’t overlook the power of a different type of connection in your success equation: your connections to others.
Humans are inherently social beings. We seek connection to others, and the bonds we build create trust and safety just as much as they encourage us to test our limits. When setting resolutions—or analyzing current ones—consider them through the lens of how they connect you to others in your personal and professional circles. Who will be there to encourage you? Who will hold you accountable? Will your successes be personal—or might your resolutions also serve to make someone’s job easier or day brighter?
When thinking about my resolutions, I know I will always prioritize time to connect with a partner or friend on Zoom over exercise. Still, I know how I feel after a Peloton ride or a walk around my neighborhood: my energy levels are much higher, and my mind is clearer and more focused. As it turns out, when I choose to take time to stick to my exercise resolution, I’m doing much more than that: I’m empowering myself to bring the very best I have to the relationships that mean so much to me. The quality of my work improves, and I can be more present in how I connect with others. When my resolutions are rooted in my values, I’m much more committed to achieving them.
Use Connection to Keep Your Resolutions on Track
Whether you are making progress on your resolutions, wondering if you made the right ones, or decided to skip them this year, ask yourself a few key questions as you look to make the most out of the year, the month, or a single day:
- What are my values?
- How are the choices I make connected to my values?
- How do the choices I make lead to stronger connections between myself and my family, friends, and colleagues?
I’m still not convinced I’m a New Year’s resolution person, but I do know any choice I make is more likely to succeed if it is aligned with my values and serves to strengthen my connections to the people in my world. On the days when I consider skipping exercise, it makes it a little easier to prioritize it when I remember it is connected to my values—especially when the benefits I enjoy show up in the work I can do for others.