The new year is here and it’s the time of good cheer and high hopes.

A time for welcoming in a new energy, and saying goodbye to the old.

A time for setting new goals, aspirations, and resolutions.

But, with the last two years fresh in mind, it’s extremely tempting to encourage everyone to just move into the new year ever so slowly, very quietly, and most definitely not say or touch anything! For, at this point, can we really trust in the new year of 2022 and what it might bring?

For much of 2020 and 2021, so many things were outside of our own personal control. We had to learn to flow along and take things in stride as best as we could.

Maybe after the last couple of years, you might wonder if you should even bother setting those new year’s resolutions since so much of what you most likely planned went to the wayside with COVID-19 all around us.

Resolutions or goals? What’s the difference?

The words resolution and goal are often interchanged and most people see them as the same thing. However, there is a distinct difference between the two. A resolution is a promise you make to yourselfand is broad sweeping across an area of yourself or life you want to change. It’s usually more open-ended than a specific goal.

A goal on the other hand is more condensed, specific, and shoots toward a defined outcome.

As an example, you might make a resolution, as many do, to improve your health in the new year. But how are you going to do that? What do you actually hope to achieve, specifically? Maybe to achieve better health you want to lose 25 lbs. or workout for an hour each day. Those are the specific goals.

Much of the time, people set resolutions at the new year to only see them broken within a few weeks or days. Usually this happens because there is no end point and no actual path or plan to get there, and no way of measuring your progress. And when you don’t have a plan, it’s much easier to fail, especially when you have unexpected things come along and shake up your best intentions.

How to stick with your New Year’s intentions in the face of uncertainty and change

Under the best of circumstances it can be hard to follow through and keep up with the resolutions you set. In years like the last couple, it can be even harder and you may wonder if it is even worth trying.

But there are things you can do to set yourself up for success, regardless of what is going on in the world.

  1. Don’t set resolutions, set goals instead.As stated, setting goals gives you specific things to strive for, a path to follow to reach them, and something you can see success in. Resolutions are just too broad with no defined achievement that you can actually track to see progress.
  2. Make the goals you set simpleyet specific and then break them down into smaller goals or tasks which are easier to accomplish and stick with. Smaller steps lead to longer-term results and creating small milestones along the way will help you stay on track and follow through. It will also help you from feeling overwhelmed trying to do it all at once.
  3. Make your New Year’s goals meaningful yet fun. Everyday life can be a routine grind for many of us, but your goals and intentions for a better you/life shouldn’t be. Make you goals something important to you thatyou feel excited about achieving. Sure, we all want to improve ourselves and our lives like losing weight, eating better, spending more time with family and less time at work, but if you can find the fun of doing that in the process, or see the fun in the outcome of achieving those intentions, that will help motivate you to stick with it.
  4. Make your goals sustainable. Again, breaking up the larger goal or outcome into smaller goals and tasks will help you stick with it and make it more likely you will achieve what you set out to do. Set a date you want to achieve the outcome and work backwards to your starting point. Break it down into achievable bite-sized steps that you can keep track of to see your progress.
  5. Plan for contingencies, changes, and the unexpected. If 2020 and 2021 taught us nothing else, it taught us to expect the unexpected and go with the flow. It’s not easy to do, but critical to goal success and happiness in life. When you think about it, the times we felt frustrated, angry, or defeated are times when our expectations were not met like we thought they would be. Be willing to release your expectations and be open to change. Be open to things not going as planned and take it in stride. Don’t be so rigid that you won’t allow your goals to be flexible or you might miss out on something even better!
  6. Reward your successes. Give yourself something to look forward to when you achieve some of your milestones. It will make reaching the next one that much sweeter and you’re more likely to keep on track knowing you get to work towards something tangible that you want. Make your rewards fun or exciting so your path to reaching your ultimate goal won’t feel so daunting or hard.

According to surveys, over 70% of people in the U.S. make New Year’s resolutions for themselves with the top six categories being related to health, money, career, self-improvement, family, and love.

Here are just a few ideas of goals (not resolutions) you can set for yourself related to these categories that can help you jumpstart your new year on the right track.

Health: Commit to drinking an extra cup of water each day; eat one fresh, whole-food meal a day; cut out one extra cup of coffee, soda, or sugary drink a day or week; get up and move or stretch for five minutes every hour; get up five minutes early every morning or go to bed an extra five minutes earlier than normal each night; or get ten minutes of fresh air every day.

Money:Cut back on small purchases like expensive coffee at least once per week and put the money into savings; use apps, programs, and services that help you round up your purchases for “forced” savings;set up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings accounts; review your debt and pay off one debt a month if it is in your budget; or create an emergency savings fund of at least $1,000.

Career:If your trying to move ahead in your career, you could commit to keeping a planner if you don’t normally do that; you can commit to coming into the office a half hour earlier to get more work done; or you can commit to making ten new connections or calls a month to create new business or opportunities. If you’re trying to balance your career and home life more, you can commit to leaving work ten minutes earlier; turn off your cell phone during your off hours or family time; or finally plan and take that vacation you’ve never had the time to take.

Self-improvement:Read something meaningful every day; start a new hobby; make a new friend; volunteer at or donated to a charity that serves a cause that’s important to you; cut back on social media online and make real in-person connections; create that bucket list and work toward doing one item a month on it; smile and/or compliment at least one person a day; mentor someone; declutter five items a week (or day) from your life; or create a daily gratitude list.

Family: Spend more time with your loved ones by creating a weekly or monthly family game,  movie, or puzzle night; write monthly letters of love or support to your children; create a family gratitude jar or box that you add to throughout the year; create a familyboard to post daily messages on; or take turns planning a family dinner.

Love:Write an old fashioned love letter to your significant other every month; commit to a date night once a week with just the two of  you; learn a new skill or develop a hobby you can do together. Of course, love isn’t just about romantic love. You can also create a “date night” with your closest friends every month or spread the love to your community by volunteering at a local nonprofit weekly; or pay it forward every couple of months by paying for the person behind you in the drive thru.