It turns out we actually should make New Year´s resolutions. Whether all of them are kept or not, resolutions allow us to reflect on the past year and map out our year ahead. They help us set goals and ultimately, keep us striving to become better versions of ourselves.
Every year, I make a long list of New Year’s resolutions, and I mean long—sometimes as many as 30 items! I feel that by acknowledging on paper the things I eventually want to achieve, somehow they will become a reality. Maybe the Universe will help me take care of it or Santa will be kind enough to give me a hand.
Many things on my annual list are character defects I want to get rid of—I have always been ruthless and impatient with myself. But somehow the long, self-critical lists have helped me see where I stood and where I wanted to get to, and what I wanted and needed to do to feel better about myself. In short, they helped me to be happier, which is what we all strive for when we look at the year ahead.
Maybe New Year’s resolutions are a way of exorcising a particularly bad year, or of looking ahead with a greater sense of optimism. But anything that gives your life focus, meaning and hope can’t be a waste of time. So, I say there are a lot of good reasons to make a list of New Year’s resolutions. Here are just a few:
- You have something to look forward to. Planning how you are going to achieve a goal and thinking about the rewards it will bring once attained brings greater purpose and focus to your life.
- You strive to do better. Listing character defects or things you want to overcome—say fear of driving, for instance—can actually improve your self-esteem. Writing it all down will make you more aware, assertive and proactive.
- You’ll be more adventurous. Write down all those things you want to do but keep postponing. Skydiving. Writing a book. Taking a dream vacation. This year, list them all.
- You get rid of baggage. A New Year’s list helps you get rid of things you no longer want in your life, whether it’s a relationship, a bad habit, or a lousy job. Writing it down reinforces the goal of dumping the excess baggage, and you’re more likely to finally do it!
What should you include on your list? Anything! I can tell you, my lists have included some absurd things, like reading 40 books in a year or losing my fear of social events. I never got to all those books, but my social life has flourished, and I am no longer afraid in social situations. That item was on my list for years. But somehow, I was finally able to scratch it off, in part because my annual list kept me aware that I needed to work on that problem in order to be happier.
So make your list as long as you like. At the end of the year, look back and check all those things you achieved—even the small ones count. Even if on the following year’s list you have to include many of the same things and add a few more, that’s okay. As you look back through the years, you will see how the list dwindles—that’s because every year, you’re getting closer to where and who you want to be.