Happy New Year!

How do you face the new year?  With dread?  With optimism?  Mixed feelings?  Do you have a sense of efficacy about personal growth in the coming days and weeks, or are you all about “learned helplessness” and “nothing ever works anyway”?

MoodSurfing regularly looks at the topics of habit change and self-improvement, especially at this time of year, when many people are thinking about what they want to do differently in the future.  We suggest thinking about your overall life purpose, or about doable small steps, which is all useful, but clearly, the mindset you have when approaching New Year’s resolutions will have the biggest effect on what kind of resolutions you make and whether you ever take concrete steps towards making those improvements real.

Why make New Year’s resolutions at all?  Your reason for doing so will influence the type of resolution you make and the chances of it being kept or not as the first weeks of the year go by.  If New Year is just a time to resolve something you will later forget, like making a wish when you blow out your birthday candles, then there’s no reason to obsess over the right resolution to make.

But if you really want to use this occasion for building a better life, then consider these tips:

  1. Don’t wait for January 1.  Start with small steps now.  Any or every day is a good one to start working on change.  Also, don’t quit just because February comes around.  New Year’s is all year!
  2. Don’t expect miracles.  Keeping a resolution requires careful planning and persistence.  Give it a few weeks or a month or two when you have to discipline yourself to do the new thing (or stop doing the old thing).  It will only become a habit after some practice.
  3. Build on what has worked for you in the past.  What experiences brought you special joy or satisfaction in the past year?  What might you need to do to make sure that these experiences become a regular part of your life?
  4. How does this resolution fit in with the overall narrative you are telling about your life?  Are you a person who is learning to be more contemplative, or more in touch with nature?  Or are you a person who is moving onward and upward in meeting your ambitions and excelling in what you do?  Make the resolution fit into the narrative for more coherence with what you want your life to be.

And don’t worry.  If it doesn’t work out, there is always next week or month or year!