New opportunities for positive change

RESOLVE TO DO BETTER: "New year, new me" has become an inescapable chant in the first week of 2020. One high school counselor says instead of a to-do list, focus on one or two goals and create a plan you can stick to. Dreamstime/Tribune News Service

It's a new year, and for many people it means an opportunity to approach life with renewed vigor. Whether it's those 10 pesky pounds you've been meaning to let go of, the writing journal that's sat with blank pages for years, or the stack of self-improvement books that you resolved to get into last year can, they can surely be accomplished this time around. Right?

Maybe.

Notre Dame High School counselor Joleen Limtiaco said it's important to think through your resolutions and not just rush into them headlong – a surefire way of burning out quickly.

"Resolutions are like goals – we need to plan them out," she said. "One or two goals are more than enough."

She explained that even one resolution is enough to spark a change in your life, and you don't need several goals to define your success in the year.

For your one or two resolutions, create a plan. She said successfully accomplishing a resolution comes from keeping track and staying accountable.

"Have checkpoints to monitor progress and have resources, or support systems, in place to help you achieve your resolutions," she said.

Be kind to yourself

Limtiaco said when laying out the plan, it's important to be realistic about the timelines or achievement periods. Additionally, you have to be flexible and be able to modify your goals as you move toward it and learn more about yourself.

"Progress should be gradual and long-term," she said. "If you need to modify your resolution, then do it and don't be hard on yourself about it. It is your resolution and no one else's, so it has to work for you."

Another aspect of achieving the goal is to remember the purpose, or the "why" behind what you're doing. Remembering the purpose can help motivate you on days when you aren't feeling like working out, or writing, or practicing that complicated piano piece.

Here are some of the do's and don'ts of resolutions that Limtiaco stressed:

Don'ts

• Don't try to be an overachiever!

We often set ourselves up with a long list of improvements that we wish to prioritize, but in the end small wins. By prioritizing one thing, you can have absolute focus on one goal and the chances of your accomplishing that one task is higher than a list of several things.

• Reasonable is feasible

Being ambitious isn't a bad thing, and there is no problem with setting a goal you have to work hard for as long as they are realistic. Set a goal that is something you know you are capable of accomplishing. This way, it's all the more possible to follow through with your resolution and seriously make some improvements in your life.

• Any day could be the day

The new year is not your only opportunity to set goals and make a change in your life. When you wake up each day, you are given the opportunity to make yourself a better you. The goals you make to change your life are made to change your life, so the only opinion that should matter about them should be yours. Do what you believe is best for yourself, whenever you believe it is best for yourself, and remember to seize the day and make the most of it now!

Dos:

• Design your goal

Any goal is easier to achieve with a plan. Create a plan to keep yourself in check and on task. Seeing the bigger picture broken down makes the goal feel all the more possible to accomplish. You also don't have to stick strictly to your plan. Making modifications is okay if it makes it easier for you to achieve – after all, it's all for you, anyway. This is your goal, so design it in a way that is more feasible for you to accomplish.

• Slow and steady wins the race

Think of your goal as a new habit you're developing. It takes time for it to become second nature for you or seamlessly part of your life. Like Limtiaco said, progress should be gradual and long-term. If this goal should make any lasting improvement in your life, you should take your time.

• You are the reason

Make this resolution for no one else but yourself. You have to want to do this for yourself if you actually want to see a change. Be passionate about your goal. When you truly want to do something and have the passion to pursue it, nothing can stop you.

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