Cultivating a year filled with better tomorrows

MGN

New Year’s weekend is a time of year for both reflections and planning. Often, we find ourselves making promises, pledges, goals or resolutions to make changes, particularly with regards to our health. 

An estimated 74.2% of Americans made resolutions in 2021. The top six categories were related to money, career, family, love, health and self-improvement. Health-related resolutions were at the top of the list. This is not a surprising fact given the world is currently living with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Resolutions are regularly made and broken. In fact, anyone who has visited a gym during the month of January is a witness to the increased number of patrons, yet by spring in just a couple of months the number of people at the gym dwindles. 

The gym dropouts are not alone. Historically, only 30% of individuals achieve or partially achieve their resolutions. Why? Oftentimes, the resolutions require drastic or unsustainable changes. For years, I made annual resolutions that I never kept. At one point, I just began striking out the old calendar year and replacing it with the new year. 

So, why am I among the almost 75% of Americans who continue this annual tradition? Is there a way to make lofty goals more attainable and, more importantly, add meaning to our lives?

Tips for achieving goals

First, why make resolutions? Resolutions reflect hope and a desire to improve our lives, most frequently our health status. Resolutions are a tool meant to motivate. So, this column will give the reader a few tips to achieve your goals. 

To begin, resist repeating goals that you’ve failed to achieve in the past. Do not make vague resolutions such as getting healthy or drastic goals like fitting into the outfit I wore to prom 20 years ago. From the start it is important to set yourself up for success. 

Second, how do you plan for success? I challenge readers to reflect on the last year. For some MSR readers, 2021 was the best year of your life, for others the worst, and for most it was somewhere in between. 

Look at your journal, diary, or a calendar. Review your activities for each month. Take a few notes, then write down at least three of your achievements or best moments. What about these moments brought you joy? What about these moments improved your health, lifestyle, or daily function? 

When making your list, avoid the temptation to make it based on others’ perspectives. It should be about your joy. For example, your list may include getting dressed and showering regularly when you were isolated, unemployed, or telecommuting. This exercise is only about your self-care journey and your definition of joy. 

Next, complete the same exercise but this time focus on your three lowest points. How did these events or changes challenge you? What were the lessons learned? How can what you learned assist you in avoiding similar challenges? Were these challenges representative of your complete growth, or are they areas where you should continue to focus your energy? 

Finally, use this information to make small specific goals that build upon last year’s gains. After making your goals, write down your strategy. Next, consider how you will track your progress and respond to unexpected barriers to success. 

Then, mull over who will assist you in being accountable. You and your accountability partner should review your progress at regular intervals. Finally, take time to celebrate your gains throughout the year. Share this news with others who will aid you in staying motivated; it will give you an opportunity to inspire others. 

To say the least, the last two-plus years brought unprecedented challenges in all aspects of our lives. These challenges have led to division, unrest, and loss, but they are also opportunities for healing, growth and resilience. 

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life goes on, and it will be better tomorrow.” Dr. Angelou’s words embrace optimism and hope. In that spirit, I wish all Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder readers a year filled with better tomorrows.

Dr. Dionne Hart specializes in psychiatry and addiction medicine. She was the inaugural chair of the American Medical Association’s Minority Affairs Section and the first Black woman elected to the Minnesota Medical Association’s Board of Trustees. She is a past Minnesota Psychiatrist of the Year. In 2020, the Minnesota Physician journal named her one of the 100 most influential healthcare leaders in Minnesota. She is the president of the Minnesota Association of African American Physicians and Region 4 chairperson of the National Medical Association.