31 S. Braddock St. | Winchester, VA 22601

(540) 535-1111 | Available 24/7

31 S. Braddock St. | Winchester, VA 22601

(540) 535-1111 | Available 24/7

Tips for Setting New Year’s Resolutions

Tips for Setting New Year’s Resolutions

As we roll into the New Year, we’ve probably already heard people around us begin to tell us their New Year’s Resolutions.  Perhaps we even have some New Year’s Resolutions in our pocket ourselves.  New Year’s Resolutions are an interesting topic, particularly because they’re something that has followed humanity for thousands of years.  In fact, ancient Babylonians were making New Year’s Resolutions as long as 4,000 years ago.  That’s 4,000 years’ worth of failed resolutions.  You might think we’re joking, but according to Forbes, up to 80% of New Year’s Resolutions don’t succeed.

Well, we’re sure there were some successes along the way.  Of course, there were.  In fact, if you’re in recovery, sobriety was once a resolution for you; whether it happened during the New Year or not, it was a goal you had, and it’s probably something you work to maintain as part of your daily life.  Maybe you’re attending meetings, talking to your sponsor on a regular basis, and doing the 12 steps.  Those are all things you do to maintain your progress.

But we’re not the only ones who have friends or loved one’s intent on the phrase “New year, new me,” assuring us they’ll make a resolution for good this time, only for the resolution to get tossed to the wayside.  In fact, it happens to all of us in some capacity.  We make a promise to create a new habit, like exercising or eating right, but eventually return to old patterns.  If it’s your job taking up your time, family life, or some other responsibility or distraction, it can be very difficult to make a New Year’s Resolution and stick to your guns, particularly if you’re in recovery.  Life just gets in the way.  So why do we still keep making these resolutions if we know there’s a chance we won’t succeed?  Are we doomed to fail?

Well, because we want to change.  And no, we’re not doomed to failure.  The statistics might be daunting, but they don’t tell the full story.  The reality is this; diving headfirst into a goal with no real plan or definition has little chance to succeed.  With all of those negatives in front of us, it can seem like we’re discouraging you from making a resolution, but we’re not.  The truth is, we want you to go into making resolutions the right way.  We want you to have a plan.  We want you to have support.  We want you to succeed!

Change is important to all of us, after all; we want better relationships, we want better health, we want to improve our finances, and we want to reach whatever other goals we might have.  Perhaps your goals are even related to recovery; maybe you want to improve your relationship with your sponsor, build your network, do service work, or create some other recovery-related goal that’s important to you.

So, you might be asking yourself, what makes creating a resolution so difficult, and what can we do to make sure that these goals are within our reach so they don’t slip away from us this time?

For starters, a lot of individuals will go into a resolution with no clearly defined goal in mind.  How can you reach your goal or come to a resolution if you haven’t really defined what that goal is?  “Living Healthier” was the largest goal of Americans in 2022.  Personal improvement or happiness was second on the list.  But what do those things really mean?  “Living Healthier” might look different for each individual person.  I could tell you what it looks like for me, but I’m sure my vision of health is different from yours.  Secondly, can you measure change as you progress through this goal?  Is it something achievable that you have time for every day, a few days a week, or once a week? What does this goal look like overall?

Additionally, when we set goals, how often is it that we’re truly realistic with our goals?  How often do we set goals for ourselves and immediately push our limits past the point of exhaustion and burn ourselves out?  If you burn yourself out right away, how likely are you to return to the goal that you’ve set for yourself?  Not very.  This pattern of all-or-nothing thinking and behavior is common in addiction and recovery particularly, and it’s important that we recognize it and work to challenge it.

Next, when you set this goal for yourself, do you feel supported by the individuals around you?  Do you have anyone around you that can hold you accountable?  Going into this goal alone might be your instinct or even your preference, but is it going to help you stay motivated to change? Probably not.

So let’s get into the specifics by breaking it down into simple terms.

  1. First and foremost, create a plan.  A way you can do this is by asking yourself some simple questions and giving yourself some simple prompts.  These prompts can help you to better determine why you’re reaching for your goals, determine what challenges might stand in your way of reaching your goals, and help you to stay motivated throughout your process. For example:The change(s) I want to make is/are…The things I need to do in order to make the change(s) are…The reasons I’m making the change(s) are…Obstacles for the change(s) I’m making are…I know that my plan for change is working when…
  2. The change(s) I want to make is/are…
  3. The things I need to do in order to make the change(s) are…
  4. The reasons I’m making the change(s) are…
  5. Obstacles for the change(s) I’m making are…
  6. I know that my plan for change is working when…
  7. It’s time to get SMART.  No, I’m not calling you dumb, it’s an acronym! SMART stands for;

S – Specific:  BE SPECIFIC in defining your goal.  As we discussed before, one reason why some goals might be hard to reach is that they’re ill-defined.  Don’t make your goal vague.  Be clear and concise with what your goal is by clearly defining what the goal looks like and what your goal means to you.

M – Measurable:  Make sure that you can measure your goal.  Another reason why goals can be hard to reach is that they’re difficult to measure.  If you can’t measure your goal, how will you track your progress?

A – Attainable/Achievable/Action-Oriented:  Goals can also be difficult to reach if you pick something that isn’t reasonably achievable.  Make sure that your goal is something that’s attainable; something that you can achieve that you can continually take action towards.  

R – Realistic/Relevant:  It’s important to also remember that your goal should be realistic and relevant, aligning with your available resources and your values.  Make sure that your goal is something that you can afford to achieve, but also something that is in line with the things you care about and matter to you long-term.

T – Timely:  When setting a goal, it’s important to take time into consideration. If you’re going to set a goal, set an end date that’s realistic but motivating you to reach your goal and prioritize completing tasks.

A great example of a goal using this method is: I’ll go to the gym for 1 hour at least 3x per week for the next 6 weeks.

  1. Use your support system.  If you’re going to set a goal, it’s important that you have others around you that you can utilize for support.  Maybe they’re individuals who will hold you accountable.  Maybe they’re individuals who just cheer you on while you’re working to achieve your goals.  Whoever these individuals are, ask them to hold you accountable in some way, whether it’s by asking you if you’ve completed a task or by providing encouragement, it will keep you motivated to stay on track.It could be as simple as asking the people in your support system and writing out a list of those individuals/contacts and ways they can help.  For example:The people/resources I can use for support are….Ways these people/resources can help me/support me/hold me accountable are…
  2. The people/resources I can use for support are….
  3. Ways these people/resources can help me/support me/hold me accountable are…

These last tips are straightforward with all of that out of the way.

Be flexible and forgiving of yourself – these are your goals, so it’s okay to recognize when a goal is unattainable or too difficult to reach.  That does not mean that you’ve failed or that you’ve been defeated.  It’s alright to change your goals to something more achievable.  Part of combatting all-or-nothing thinking is realizing you don’t have to give up, but rather, make adjustments.  Part of being in recovery is the recognition that some things will be out of your control, but changing what you can and moving on with acceptance and grace.  Recognize when things are out of your control and make revisions.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  That’s okay.

We hope that these tips are helpful for you along your New Year’s Resolution journey this year, and we hope 2023 brings you lots of awesome changes.  Just remember to have a plan, stay SMART, and use your support system!

If achieving sobriety is your goal for the New Year, we can help with that. Please reach out to our Admissions Director at 540-535-1111.

Happy New Year!