• New Year’s Resolutions and Goals: A Simple and Proven Three-Step Plan to Make Them Actually Work

    Welcome to 2024!

    As this year turns, it always gets me thinking about how I want to make this year different than the last. That got me thinking about the different meanings of the word “resolutions” and another word, “goals.” They are often used interchangeably, and, to an extent, I can see why. But I also think there are important differences between the two terms. The secret is knowing the difference between them and how to use them together.

    The truth is, by itself, I’ve never really liked the word “resolution.” For many, it’s laced with unmet, long-term, vague, or sometimes unrealistic goals. For example, I just decided that I’m going to run a marathon in March and will start training in February. It’s just plain too hard to maintain our motivation under these circumstances. This diminished enthusiasm is probably one of the main reasons research shows that more than 80% of New Year’s resolutions are broken.

    When vague, resolutions can look like, “I want to be closer to people.” That’s a genuinely nice resolution to focus on, but what does being close to people really mean to you? What does being close to people actually look like? What does it feel like? How do you know if you accomplished it? For me, the answer lies in making one or more resolutions, setting specific goals, and establishing a time to complete each goal. Why?

    The word “goals” has more of a sense of being a specific target that is realistically achievable within a defined amount of time. A goal requires action! A goal, by definition, requires a conscious intention to do something.

    So, if I state my resolution of wanting to be closer to people, I simply start a list of goals to help bring my resolution to life. I have a simple three-step recipe:

    1. Make a Resolution. Determine what you want, wish, need, or desire in your life. What is your resolve?

    Tip: Start with small and easily achievable goals. This sets a pattern of success.

    2. Target Specific Goals. This will help you achieve your resolution. Be specific about your intention(s). Develop a detailed plan of action.

    Tip: Limit your specific primary goals to no more than three to start the year. Many of us fail to implement our goals if we bite off more than we can chew!

    resolutions, goals, therapy, counseling, Dr. Gary Brown, Los Angeles therapist, individual therapy, relationship therapy, DrGaryLATherapist
    3. Establish a Timeline. Give yourself a timeline to achieve your short- and long-term goals when possible. Setting a time to complete your goals is one of the proven and best ways to help with your accountability. Doing this will significantly increase your chances of achieving your goals.

    Napoleon Hill once said, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.”

    Tip: Ask a buddy (spouse, partner, friend, colleague) to help you be accountable.

    Tip: Reward yourself when you achieve your resolutions and goals!

    To help you, here’s an example of my first and most important resolution for 2024, my goals, and an action plan to make it happen, including specific timelines to meet my goals.

    My Resolution: I Want To Experience More Connection

    Much research shows an increased emotional connection with ourselves and others, which can dramatically enhance our mental and physical well-being. A lack of personal and intimate connection will likely lead to isolation and extreme loneliness. In short, we need each other. And after a year like we’ve just had, connection is more important than ever!

    For me, there is no more powerful experience than enjoying an emotional connection with people. It is a delightful, warm, and fulfilling experience. And the deeper the connection, the greater the experience of closeness. I naturally want more!

    connection, intimacy, couples, relationships, Dr. Gary Brown, Los Angeles therapist, individual therapy, relationship therapy, DrGaryLATherapist

    My Goals To Experience More Connection

    1. I will call at least one person a week whom I may not have talked to in real life for a long time. Facebook doesn’t count. Neither does Instagram, Snapchat, texting, or email. This action item is logged into my calendar with two alerts.

    2. I will express gratitude to each person I talk with on my weekly phone calls. I wrote an entire blog on this. It may not be a big thing to some, but so many people really like to know why we love them. It’s a small thing that can make a huge difference in someone’s life. That always feels good.

    3. I will reach out more and invite people on Facebook to have a phone conversation. If I don’t have their phone number, I’ll give them mine in a DM (no sense in putting this out publicly).

    To help facilitate this, I will go “radio silent” on Facebook for the first week in February. This action will prompt me to reach out to even more people.

    4. I will review my “A-List” by Sunday, January 14th. I aim to expand important relationships and specifically focus on people I miss having contact with. Intentionally choosing people who genuinely want more connection is my highest priority.

    5. I will add two more charities to which I donate. I have already picked one and will decide on the second one by the end of this week. You might ask why this is related to wanting to experience more connection. It’s simple; the more I give, the more I feel connected.

    charity, resolution, goals, Dr. Gary Brown, therapist

    6. I will ask each person I talk to, “What specific thing(s) can I do to help support you in your life right now?” I genuinely want to know what they want, need, and desire. Again, this is such a simple thing to do, and just asking this question lets people know that I love and care for them. And this automatically leaves us both feeling closer and more connected.

    7. One particular thing I can also do to enhance connection is to follow this specific goal: put down my electronic devices when talking with someone! Have you noticed how often you’re with others on an electronic device? Look at that blog post for practical tips proven to help us all be more connected. You may find one or two that you also would like to take on and practice!


    I hope that my personal example of a single resolution and the goals to achieve it are helpful. You can apply this simple three-step model to virtually any change you want in your life. Be as specific as you can, be patient, think about the results you want in the short and long term, establish some initial timelines to help with accountability, and be flexible, as life has a habit of throwing an occasional curveball! 

    This exercise is one of my very favorite things to do with my clients. They frequently tell me that they enjoy this activity when they see what old and/or new and exciting things are possible in their lives! If you would like help with your resolutions and goals, give me a call to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to see what we can do to help you achieve them.





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