The New Year: A Time for Reflection and Resolution

By Gina McSheffey Emmons, PhD

The start of the New Year is always a good time to look back on the past year and think about what we would like to do differently in the year ahead. It’s a chance to start anew and make some real changes in our lives. Unfortunately, we have all been there before where we have vowed to improve some aspect of our lives only to be disappointed when we did not meet what we set out for ourselves. This year can be different! With some reflecting and positive thinking, you can be on your way to setting some good concrete goals for yourself.


When reflecting on the past year, some of us may tend to focus on the negative aspects of the year particularly when searching for areas of improvement. However, reflecting on the “good” and “not so good” moments can be useful in determining the changes you want to make in your life. Making a list of the things you accomplished and what you were proud of or enjoyed will help you to focus on the positives from the year. It is important to acknowledge these positives because we have to take note of what worked and what made us feel our best in order to continue making positive strides. Taking note of the negatives in the year can help provide perspective into learning how to do things differently in the future. Be careful not to get caught up in overly analyzing these negative aspects, but instead use them as catalysts for change. The best way to evolve from our past experiences is to reflect, accept, and learn from them. Having these prior experiences and knowledge benefits us along our journey in becoming the best versions of ourselves.


When thinking about self-improvement in the New Year, there comes a lot of pressure to make resolutions and to stick with them. Often times, we set goals that are not always easy to achieve and then we get stuck in our usual patterns and routines, leaving us feeling defeated. While keeping in mind some guidelines and a little bit of optimism, we can set more attainable and realistic goals for ourselves.

Here are some suggestions to consider when making your NewYear’s resolutions:

  • Break it Down: The key is to think about the overall goal you want to accomplish and break it down into smaller parts so that you have a greater chance of successfully meeting your goal. You will feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete each part.
  • Start Small: Avoid setting big, lofty goals like, “I’m going to lose weight this year.” Goals should start small, be simple, specific, and measurable. For example, “I will go to the gym 2 times and walk for 20 min. on the treadmill for the first week.” The following goals would slowly increase in frequency, intensity, and duration depending on your progress. Write them down so you can visually reference what you are working on each week.
  • Do a Reality-Check: You always have to be realistic about your goals so that you are able to do what you set out to do within your schedule. You have to determine what is feasible while keeping in mind the balance of your day-to-day responsibilities and obligations. Writing into your schedule what you hope to accomplish will increase your chances that you will complete it.
  • Set Realistic Expectations: Accomplishing a goal can take time so cut yourself some slack and do not set unrealistic timelines for yourself. Can you accomplish your goal by a reasonable endpoint or is it something that can be ongoing?
  • Keep Motivated: One of the best ways to stick to a goal is to pair up with someone or a group of people so you can help motivate each other to meet your goals. Sharing your experience with others affords you more opportunities for support and encouragement, which ultimately helps you to stay on track.
  • Revise and Modify: If there is a setback, you can get right back up and start again. Once we are not successful with a goal, we may feel like we want to give up easily and not venture on. Allow room for problem-solving and troubleshooting to make any needed revisions and modifications to your plan(s) when things do not go as expected, and move on. Maybe you decide to try something else or take a different path while keeping your overall goal in mind.

When it comes to thinking about what you want to do differently this year, try to be easy on yourself.  Keep in mind that change will not happen overnight and will take some time. Making change in your life is a fluid and evolving process. You can achieve success when you start small and build up from there. If you envision it, it can happen! Make 2020 your year to shine!