As one year draws to a close, it’s natural to reflect on what you have achieved.  A lot of people might want things to be different next year. I totally understand that, but let me tell you why I’m not making New Year’s resolutions anymore…

New Year's Hat sits on a table in front of party food. Silver beads are also on a chain in the foreground.
Happy New Year

First of all, most of them fail. When I say most, I mean around 80% will fail, according to a US News & World report.  I’m not alone in thinking resolutions aren’t a great idea either.  There must be a reason so many fail to stick to resolutions, so I started thinking about why that might be so I could avoid those pitfalls.

An obvious one is that our resolutions are often unrealistic.  Are you working, managing a busy household, or even PCSing?  It’s unlikely you’re going to find the time to learn a new language, so why set yourself up to fail?

As soon as you begin to feel you are slipping up in your resolutions, that familiar sense of failure descends.  Once you start to feel that you are not succeeding, the motivation to keep trying reduces dramatically.  What is the point, if you have already failed?  This is a big factor in why many resolutions fail.

For me personally, one of the main reasons that I won’t be making New Year’s resolutions is the word itself.  By definition, resolution means a ‘firm decision’ to do or not do something.  That seems pretty absolute so as soon as something comes along that might make keeping your resolution difficult, you are left feeling like a failure again.  Something like say, a pandemic.  Or any number of things that military life can throw at you.

As military spouses, we know all too well that life can get in the way of things we are trying to achieve.  New Year’s resolutions are setting us up to fail when those things, completely outwith our control, inevitably happen.

What I need is a target to aim for that has wiggle room.  I do want to change things in my life and I want things to look forward to. I need a goal that can adapt to my life as it needs to and I can still make progress towards it without being a ‘failure’ if life puts an obstacle in my way.

So, now I’ve told you why I’m not making New Year’s resolutions anymore, let me tell you what I do instead.  

Every year on New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as we call it in Scotland, my husband and I take time to reflect and plan.  We look back on what we wanted to achieve over the last year and some of the major life events we navigated.  We talk about when things went according to plan and, more often, when things didn’t.

Celebrating New Year's Eve with a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket and two glasses.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve

The other thing we do is plan for the coming year.  We talk about things we want to do, places we want to go and how we want to move forward in our careers.  These can be for us as individuals, as a couple or as a family with our two kids.  We don’t make New Year’s resolutions but we do set goals. The key part is, they are SMART goals.

If you haven’t come across this term before, it stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based/bound.  Setting these sorts of goals is the key to success.

As an example, one of my goals for this year was to read 14 books.  It wasn’t ‘read more books’, you’ll notice.  Read 14 books is specific and easily measurable. It is realistic because I read 12 in the previous year and it is certainly time-based because my goal is to read them by the end of this calendar year.   As it happens, I’ve read far more so that’s one goal I can say I’ve achieved this year. 

Would I be able to say the same if my resolution had been ‘read more’, I wonder?

The other great thing about setting goals instead of resolutions is that they can be more flexible.  As life throws you a curveball, you can review and change your goals accordingly.  You can even set smaller milestones on the way to a larger goal.  This is setting you up to achieve, even if it is a different achievement from what you originally had planned.

I would much rather set myself up for success than failure.  So that’s why I’m not making New Year’s resolutions this year… I’m setting SMART goals instead.  How about you? 



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