Crafting a Successful New Year’s Resolution

Welcoming the New Year can be a bittersweet experience, particularly if one has suffered a loss. Whether it is a furry family member, a significant other, job situation, or relationship break-up, emotions run high. Why, then, would we set ourselves up for yet another round of potential disappointment by self-imposing a New Year’s resolution? For some, the excitement of self-improvement is a welcome challenge. For others, a stated goal makes the possibility of “better times ahead” more of a reality than if the goal were left unstated.

Why do you make a New Year’s resolution? If your goal is self-improvement, you need to be realistic about your promises. Otherwise, inherent traps may undercut fulfillment of the resolution. In order to craft an effective New Year’s resolution, it helps to be clear about the difference between the “ultimate goal” and the actual, smaller, more manageable steps, along the way.

To be effective, your New Year’s resolution should only be the first step toward an ultimate goal, and it needs to include recognition of a multi-level process toward that goal. In other words, if you wish to lose 50 pounds this year, your resolution should be to “stabilize my current weight (by learning about what triggers my weight gain and loss) and maintaining weight stability for two months.” Specifically, the goal of losing 50 pounds would be the end-goal. The stated resolution should be to maintain your current weight without gaining a single pound for a two-month period, with plans to build on that. This, if achieved, would be successful fulfillment of your New Year’s resolution, and you can then progress to your ultimate goal. Think about it: If you are unable to achieve even that first step, how likely would it be that you could achieve your target goal and maintain it long-term? This recognition helps avoid traps that interfere with the effort.

Regarding relationships, a New Year’s resolution should begin with steps you can take to improve your relationship with yourself. This includes self-reflection as Step One. Specifically, ask yourself what you are doing to enhance or distract from a healthy relationship with yourself before you move to evaluating and trying to improve/repair your relationship with others. Step Two would include taking actions to earn your own trust, and this begins with making and keeping small promises to yourself and others.

If you decide you wish to change the pattern of relationships you have been having, you would begin by assessing your true spirit and asking yourself if your lifestyle pattern attracts truly like-minded people. If not, you might decide to either adapt your lifestyle choices to better reflect your true spirit – thus attracting like-minded people – or recognize that you are actively electing to push like-minded people away. If the former, you would likely reflect on your daily routine, including choice of food, entertainment, exercise, hobbies, music and so on. You would work to sharpen skills involving communication, including self-expression, listening, body language and the like.

If the latter, you might consider consulting a licensed mental health professional to help you get out of your own way. This would help separate the presenting problems from the underlying issues. In the case of getting out of your own way, the New Year’s resolution might be stated as: “Getting to know myself better” rather than the ultimate goal of: “Getting into (or out of) a particular relationship.”

As with all self-improvement efforts, it is often valuable to recognize the true underlying desire, since that is what should be motivating your stated goal. Focusing only on the end result rather than the process to achieve it usually leaves one vulnerable to distraction or failure.

No matter what your goals are for yourself, be certain to make them realistic, in keeping with your underlying desire, and true to your spirit. Here’s to a successful 2019 and beyond!

Dr. Nancy Iankowitz is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC. She is also host of “Marcy’s World” on Pawling Public Radio. Email your questions to: For more information, call (917) 716-6802, or visit online.