Ah, yes. The dreaded annual question from your most enthusiastic friend: “So, what’s your New Year’s resolution?” I have a confession to make: I’m that friend.  

Statistically, New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep up with. According to an article by the American Psychological Association, “it is important to remember that the New Year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping character changes. It is a time for people to reflect on their past year’s behavior and promise to make positive lifestyle changes.” The article states that realistic goals are often more sustainable and can increase the chance of success. 

Setting new resolutions – goals, specifically – can be daunting and overwhelming. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what you want to improve about your life, and even more difficult to follow through with a new habit, routine or lifestyle change. After the year – more like century – that 2020 was, I think we could all use a fresh start. I’m here to help you make 2021 your best year yet. 

  1. The first step is to identify what kind of year you want to have. Are you looking to try new things? To experience growth? To improve upon your relationships and friendships? This part can be hard to articulate, since most of us want to have a year that’s a combination of these qualities. Picture yourself as your happiest, most fulfilled self. What are you doing? Who are you doing it with? What skills did you develop in order to make this happy life a reality? Asking these questions can help you to really visualize your best year. And once you have this picture in your head, the motivation to accomplish these things increases drastically.  
  1. The next question to ask yourself is “What have I always wanted to do?” Maybe you’ve always wanted to run a half marathon or take a cross-country road trip, but you just never got around to planning these things. However, your answer does not have to be something so big or bold. It can be as simple as “I’ve always wanted to get better at budgeting and saving money,” or “I’ve always thought about how fun it would be to get involved with a club on campus and make some new friends.” Once you have this in your head, start to brainstorm the actionable steps you could take towards these goals, such as recording your weekly spending or creating a half marathon training schedule. This part is particularly important for those who set large, ambitious goals. I’m all for any sort of aspirational undertaking, but you won’t get very far with these goals without a solid plan.  
  1. You’ve probably heard this one before, but the secret to success in your professional, educational, and personal goals all has to do with your daily life. Think about your routines, about what you like about your days and what you want to change. For example, I would like to spend less time scrolling through my phone and more time reading and journaling. Some popular simple changes that can yield big results in your overall well-being are walking instead of driving whenever possible, calling a friend or loved one each day, or not hitting “snooze” each morning. The key with lifestyle changes is to start small. Once you’ve examined your daily routine and figured out what you’d like to improve, think of the first step towards that goal.  
  1. In my experience, there are two main types of goals to set, often categorized as primary and secondary. A primary goal is something you have complete and total control over. Some examples could be drinking 64 oz of water per day, journaling for 15 minutes every morning, or finally going through that old closet full of clothes you never wear. A secondary goal, on the other hand, is something that is at least partially dependent on other people or circumstances. For example, maybe you’ve always to move upward in your company. While this is an excellent goal and definitely worthwhile, the difference is that there may be other people and factors involved in the outcome that are beyond your control. Generally, it’s practical to have a combination of primary and secondary goals. 
  1. Probably the simplest step in setting New Year’s resolutions and goals is to write them down. I really like keeping a list of goals and ambitions in the “Notes” section of my phone, as well as writing them down in a notebook. Writing down your goals will clarify in your mind exactly what you hope to accomplish. Additionally, where applicable, write down steps to take towards your goals, inspirational quotes, anything that you find motivational – customize your goal-setting to your own personality and priorities.  
  1. This last step is undoubtedly the most important: be kind to yourself. You are making the effort to better yourself and your life in some way, and while there will be ups and downs, having a positive attitude will do wonders in aiding your success. Take a breath, and be proud of yourself for how hard you’re trying to improve your life. Also, we can’t  forget about the fact that our world is still in the midst of a pandemic. Among its numerous challenges is the fact that some goals may not be realistic or attainable during this time. For example, it might not be the best time to backpack around Europe. However, maybe you could make a photo vision board, do research and plan out your trip, while you wait for the world to get back to something near normalcy. Adaptation is key! 

Believe in yourself and your goals, and recognize that you have everything within you to make 2021 the best year of your life so far. Good luck!