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Why you should make birthday resolutions

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New Year’s Day isn’t the only time to set new goals. The day you celebrate your own personal new year might be better!

Ever become frustrated with New Year’s resolutions? You either do it because “it’s what everyone does,” or you’re excited about it but then your motivation fizzles out a few months later. Either way, it seems more frustrating than rewarding.  

Don’t get me wrong, making resolutions every year is a great practice. Even if you don’t follow through on them, putting thought into becoming a better person is a very good thing. The time and mental energy you spend coming up with things you want to change about yourself are well spent. 

However, for the New Year, many of us come up with the most pressing change we want to make for ourselves, and decide to work on that. Some years we keep those resolutions for longer than others, but many of us don’t have a habit of looking back over the years at what we’ve accomplished and resolved to do. So, here’s an idea. What if we put a little more thought into those resolutions, and used them as a way to keep a record over the years? We could instantly add some closure and self-reflection to each new year of our life. 

Here’s one way to do just that. 

Decide on your key categories.

Some suggestions of categories to track your progress in are: intellectual, physical, spiritual, parenting, marriage, friendships. An example of an intellectual experience could be reading a good book or listening to a podcast that challenges you. A physical category would include things like a more consistent exercise routine, or a longer run that you’ve taken before. 

Make a list of achievements from the past year in those categories.

This way you are starting off with the positive! These are to-dos you don’t have to check off because you’ve already accomplished them. That retreat you went on last winter? A spiritual accomplishment. That hike you took last spring? A physical accomplishment. Those free monthly talks at the museum you attended in the fall? An intellectual accomplishment.  

Then, make a goal for the upcoming year in each category.

Push yourself a little, but make your goals realistic. If you don’t have a consistent exercise routine, this might not be the year you run a marathon. Instead, train for a 5K. In addition, make your goals concrete. Instead of saying, “I want to nurture my friendships,” think of what friendships you want to nurture and jot down a few ideas for how you can do that. Can you set aside time weekly or monthly for specific friends? Is there a practical way you can serve your friends, be that with a meal or a help with a home project? The more concrete you make your goals, the easier it is to track them.  

On your next birthday, you should still make a list of your accomplishments in each category. Even if they don’t match up with the intended goals you made for the year, you’ll see where and how you grow each new year of your life.

Want a way to make it more enjoyable, and to hold yourself accountable? Go over these resolutions verbally with other people. My family growing up did this with everyone on their birthdays every year around the dinner table. So grab some of your family, or a good friend, and make this a tradition! It’s a great way to learn about people you love, too. What’s important to them? What do they feel they’ve accomplished in the past year?

Now, instead of one haphazard resolution each year, you can have several that help you grow as a person in all areas of your life.   

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