How to Make New Year's Resolutions that Last

2021 is nearly a month underway, which means my New Year’s Resolutions have been sitting on the shelf for a month, gathering nothing but dust. February is where a lot of New Year’s Resolutions go to die, but I challenge anyone who reads this to change that narrative and make February the month we take back our resolutions. Here’s how to make (and keep) goals that make your 2021 your best year yet.

1. Reflect on 2020

2020 brought a lot of people a lot of pain. Pain that you may not necessarily want to relive or even entertain the thought of. But I think it’s important to reflect on your past experiences and choices, especially the way you reacted to bad or hurtful situations, in order to realize what you want out of your future. Pain, loss, stress, and disappointment will all come and go, but the way you react and tackle those problems can alter the course of your entire life, for better or for worse. Name the 3 worst things that happened to you last year and how you handled them. Then name the 3 best things that came out of that same year. How can you use that knowledge to plan for the new year?

2. Make a plan

Once you realize what you want out of this next year, you need to figure out a way to get it. Wishing doesn’t make it so, so what are you going to do to take hold of your life and make it happen? Set due dates for steps leading up to your goal. Set reminders on your phone. Leave sticky notes around your house. Anything to remind you of what you are working toward without getting distracted or overwhelmed by the busyness of your daily life. Set time aside for your goals and make them a priority.

3. Be realistic

You are not going to get 6-pack, washboard abs in one week. Your relationships will not heal with a single conversation. And you’ll probably burn a dish or two before becoming the next Gordon Ramsey. Setting super high, unrealistic expectations for yourself will only discourage you from pursuing your goals, especially if you expect to fail. Even small steps are a step in the right direction. Make your goals reasonable yet challenging.

4. Evaluate

As time goes on, you’ll discover that some things will work better than others. Maybe meditation didn’t help your mental health the way you thought it would. That doesn’t mean give up! It means you readjust. Try yoga, hiking, reading, or something else that might get you to that new goal. While you shouldn’t give up at the first sign of struggle, don’t force something that doesn’t feel right. Reevaluate what you want and need out of 2021 and make changes that will serve that purpose.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what month of the year it is. Anytime you feel that you can be better is the perfect time to seize that opportunity. Only you can control the outcome of your life, and you have to both love and respect yourself and the people around you in order to make that outcome positive. On a final note, I want to remind you that everyone makes resolutions because they think those changes will make them happier, and I sincerely hope that yours do. But if you search for happiness through the lens of a single goal, you’ll be both disappointed and blindsided by the outcome. So I encourage you to work hard, set goals, and try to better yourself every day, but never let those goals unbalance other parts of your life. Happy New Year!