If you are like most of us, your New Years resolutions center on some type of self-improvement. A sampling of the most common resolutions include getting fit, loosing weight, quitting smoking, saving money or reducing stress. Perhaps not surprisingly, New Years resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep. There are a few reasons for the drop-off rate, such as a lack of readiness to make the proposed change, more pressing demands, or compulsive habits that sabotage our goals. Any significant lifestyle change requires a significant amount of preparation, which has often not been planned for when January 1st rolls around.
With the above being said, there is no need for dismay. The change of calendars can be a wonderful time to reflect on the direction you would like to go and next steps involved. One suggestion, if you are willing to give it a go, is to set up a resolution or two based on your existing strengths, rather than your perceived deficiencies. You see, we tend to zero in on the ways we feel we are inadequate and set resolutions around these perceived “flaws” (for example, resolving to look like a swimsuit model when we are closer to resembling one of the teddy bears Santa brought for Christmas).
There is nothing wrong with improving upon our weaknesses. However, mounting evidence is showing how focusing instead on the use of our existing strengths can help us make progress on our overall goals. Moreover, working with our strengths can be much more exciting, intrinsically motivating and actually easier (more like swimming upstream than swimming against the current).
You may already have a sense of what your strengths are or, for the more modest, you may not have a clue. In any case, you may be interested in taking a brief survey, developed by Positive Psychologists, which will outline your existing Character Strengths (to take this survey go to http://www.viacharacter.org/survey/Account/Register).
Once you know what your character strengths are, you might want to consider resolutions that encompass the use of your existing strengths. For example, if your top strength is leadership, you might set a resolution to take on a leadership role at work. You can also find ways to tailor any existing resolutions so they incorporate your strengths. For example, if you are rather low in self-discipline but want to eat healthier foods, you might look for ways you can use your strengths to help you eat healthier (i.e. if one of your strengths is spirituality you might focus on where your food comes from and focus on eating foods which come from the earth).
Another option is to ditch the resolutions to change altogether and focus instead on simply optimizing the use of your strengths. For example, a great exercise is to use your top strength in a unique way for each week during the month of January. For example, if your top strength is warmth, you might think of a good deed you could do for someone who is going through a hard time
One important factor in goal attainment is follow-through (that is, checking in on your progress and modifying your goals as needed). If you decide to try a strength-based challenge, you might choose a buddy you can work with or even post comments to share what you have been up to. Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself and keep your goals in perspective with your overall values and what you feel is most important in your life.
Good luck and may 2015 be your strongest year ever!