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Facing 2020 with 20/20: Why resolutions fail and what to do instead

Jan. 22, 2020
In 2020, spend less energy on resolutions and more time focusing on what matters to you. It’s hard to get distracted and derailed when your heart is leading the way.

Each January we hear a lot about resolutions for the New Year. A resolution in its simplest terms is a decision to do or not do something. I think of the many resolutions I’ve set throughout my lifetime. They varied over the years, but the one thing my resolutions of the past had in common was the loss of steam that would inevitably follow.

I chose something that seemed worthy and was probably similar to resolutions set by countless others during this season. What I chose was not necessarily anything that spoke to me at a deeper level. I approached my task-oriented resolution like a sprint versus a marathon and tired out or became frustrated with what seemed to be a lack of results. I didn’t take the time to get really clear about what I wanted, and more importantly why I wanted it. I didn’t develop the necessary habits to achieve success because I wasn’t specific about what success would look like and feel like for me and why it mattered to me. I had no real plan for how I was going to get there. I didn’t set timelines, track results, and reevaluate and adjust as needed. I lost focus and motivation by February…if I were lucky enough to last that long!

With the start of 2020, I cannot help but think of 20/20 vision. I imagine something clear, crisp, evident, and in focus. It got me thinking about what my resolutions of the past lacked: vision. I italicized the key words above that help to define vision for me. In contrast to resolution, vision is more about how you commit to living your life. It acts as a guide and provides the direction necessary to move toward outcomes that are more in line with what matters most to you.

I thought about the times in my life when my initiatives were successful. There is no doubt in my mind that approaching decisions with vision at the forefront directly impacted the outcome for the better. It is vision that allows us to commit at a higher level. Other important aspects of vision include the following:

It integrates who you are and the values that are most important to you.

It is a reflection of what matters to you and what inspires you. It is more about feelings versus things.

It acts as a beacon and helps to simplify plans, goals, and decisions that you make. It also helps to keep you accountable for your decisions and actions.

It’s a long-term plan to achieve a higher version of yourself.

It has the potential to set the direction for what you want to do/become, as opposed to a task list that may not speak to your heart. With that, it has the power of sustainability over the long term.

There are numerous resources available online and in self-help books that can guide you through the vision and goal-setting processes. For me, investing in a coach also helped me to identify and incorporate my vision into my plans and goals. To get you started, here are a few thoughts to consider as you focus in on your 20/20 vision for 2020:

1. Take time to be quiet. Devoting some time daily to work on your own personal development can really help you to get clear. Perhaps it’s reading, podcasts, journaling, exercise, creative outlets, meditation, or something else that helps you tap into your higher or authentic self (beyond fears, limiting beliefs, ego, wounds, etc.).

2. Consider what is important to you in areas such as your interests, strengths, skills/talents, and dreams. How would you define your purpose?

3. Consider your contributions and past successes—draw from those times you felt on top of the world. What were you doing? What were you feeling? How can you get more of that?

4. Consider where you want to go. I often ask myself the question, “What would I choose to do if I knew failure was not an option?” Think about what speaks to your heart, not allowing fear, what-ifs, or self-limiting thoughts on the journey with you. Consider your priorities and the goals you have, both personal and professional, and both short and long term.

5. Visualize what you want and what it will feel like to have it. (Remember, this is more about feelings than about things.) For example, it may be that you desire feelings that come with balance, or a sense of accomplishment and growth, or creating opportunities that leave you more content and satisfied.

6. Write down your specific goals that are in line with your vision and keep them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (and regularly reevaluate),Time related (and track victories and success both large and small). According to a 2015 study by psychologist Gail Matthews, people who wrote down their goals were 33% more successful in achieving them than those who did not.1 Neuroscience supports that when we write things down, we have a greater chance of remembering. This has to do with encoding, which is the “biological process by which the things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analyzed. From there, decisions are made about what gets stored in our long-term memory and, in turn, what gets discarded. Writing improves that encoding process.”2 With that in mind, writing down your goals and vision is also important.

7. Consider creating a vision board as a visual reminder that you can see daily. Research shows that focusing on the effort it takes to succeed will increase your chance of success versus simply focusing on an outcome.3 For example, if your goal includes landing your dream job, be very specific about what that job includes and why it’s important to you—tie it back to your vision. Also, focus on the action steps you are going to take to get there (networking, updating your résumé, obtaining additional education, etc.) versus only picturing the job itself.

Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, is quoted as saying, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakens.” When you think of vision, sometimes all you need is a new perspective; it can be like getting a new pair of glasses and the world around you becomes clearer and more in focus. My wish for you in 2020 is that you spend less energy on resolutions and more time focusing on what matters to you. It’s hard to get distracted and derailed when your heart is leading the way.

Best for a happy, healthy, successful, and perspective-filled 2020!

. Dominican University of California. Dominican research cited in Forbes article. https://www.dominican.edu/dominicannews/dominican-research-cited-in-forbes-article.
2. Murphy M. Neuroscience explains why you need to write down your goals if you actually want to achieve them. Forbes. Apr. 15, 2018. www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2018/04/15/neuroscience-explains-why-you-need-to-write-down-your-goals-if-you-actually-want-to-achieve-them/#afece7d79059.
. Pham LB, Taylor SE. From thought to action: Effects of process-versus outcome-based mental simulations on performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 1999;25(2):250-260. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167299025002010.

Julie Whiteley, BS, RDH, is certified in human resources. She holds degrees in business administration and dental hygiene and has worked extensively in both fields. She is on the faculty of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University in Boston. Julie bridges her knowledge and experience from business, clinical hygiene, and teaching to deliver information and programs that enhance dental practices. Contact her at [email protected].