With winter's weather reminding us it is still January even while our memories of eggnog and wrapping paper are rapidly fading, those of us who dutifully write New Year's resolutions are likely sorting them into two categories, self-congratulatory Hey, I'm doing wells and self-critical Whatever was I thinking?s.
Much of the difference hinges on the reason behind our resolution. If we choose a goal from our own heart, we tend to succeed. It's the 'shoulds' that we resist.
Take a second look at your resolutions. Re-evaluate them. Do you really want to quit smoking, or did you list that because you know it's bad for your health? It's important that we realize that guilt and shame are poor motivators.
Another barrier to success with our resolutions is that our goals may be too vague. "Become a better person" is an admirable goal, but how do we measure our success? And do we need to wait until next New Year's Eve for the thrill of checking it off the list?
The solution to more successful follow-through is to break that goal into manageable pieces. For instance, your partner would certainly consider you a better person if you mentioned every day something that you appreciated about your life together. Try that consistently for a few weeks and I'll bet you get some positive feedback to boost your motivation! Or set a reminder to bring a special gift home once a month for no reason except to say "You're special to me." Wouldn't that make you feel like a better person? And you'd be assured of continual positive response as the year progressed.
As a sex therapist, I cannot resist encouraging you to include a resolution to improve your sex life in the coming year. If you are single and happily so, resolve to expand and enrich your fantasy life. Indulge yourself in a new book, video or toy. If you long for a partner, make this the year that you pen a sparkling profile -- and post it! Go on that blind date, join that group.
If you are coupled, the goal to enrich your relationship can be narrowed down to "How can I better access my erotic courage?" or "How can I better reach my spouse romantically and sexually?" To accomplish this, you may need more individual space to remember what you longed for. Perhaps give your love an evening out per week to take a class or see friends while you arrange something special with the kids. Or perhaps you have grown apart and need to find ways to rebuild intimacy. In this case, a no-interruptions weekend getaway may be just the ticket. Resolve to return to balance, one step at a time, in whichever direction is appropriate.
This may be the year to put into motion that plan to come out, to tell your sexual secret, to ask for what you really want in bed. Now that the end-of-year pressure has passed but the year is still new, reconsider what you would like to accomplish for yourself in 2013.
Toss out those other-directed resolutions and replace them with goals in which you vote for yourself. Break the year long goals into bite sized pieces and don't forget to check off your progress. Your sense of pride and accomplishment, and likely your improved relationships, will make you glad you reconsidered your resolutions.