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are your resolutions for you, or for someone else?

December 19, 2022

Every December, when it gets close to the end of the year, millions of people ponder what the next year will bring. For most, that means thinking about new goals and resolutions. Year after year, there are endless articles about how to keep your New Year’s Resolutions and tips for better goal setting. Maybe the problem isn’t actually how you’re setting your goals, but the goals that you’re choosing to set. Or rather, who you’re setting them for.

When you’re looking to the future, it’s easy to think in terms of shoulds and woulds. It’s easy to convince yourself that the goals your friends and family are setting are the same goals you should be looking toward. There are a couple of reasons this can be dissatisfying.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation can be divided into a few different categories, but one way to think about motivation is whether it’s intrinsic (coming from within) or extrinsic (coming from outside). Think of it this way: intrinsic motivation often takes the form of personal enjoyment. You’re doing the thing because doing it feels good or makes you happy. Extrinsic motivation is more external, like a physical reward. Maintaining the motivation to pursue those New Year’s Resolutions can be a challenge, but it feels a lot easier when it’s something you really want for yourself instead of for someone else.

Your Friends and Family Aren’t You

Your needs are different from theirs. The things you want out of life are different from theirs. When you’re setting goals for the year, you want to be thinking about resolutions and objectives that align with your values and help you live a more fulfilling life. Be your own person and make sure you’re setting goals that are attainable, realistic, and true to who you are. 

Support vs. Responsibility

It can be tempting to set goals alongside friends in an attempt to find an accountability buddy or a support system. While this may work initially, it inevitably involves tying your own success to the motivation and fate of another person. Developing a supportive group of friends and family who want what’s best for you is important, but avoid relying on others to create your own happiness. Taking control and responsibility for your own goals will give you a sense of ownership and pride in your accomplishments.

How to Tell If Your Goals Are Really For You

You can try out this exercise by writing it out or just imagining it in your own mind.

Ask yourself what reaching your goal actually looks like. Don’t just describe the goal, describe what you want to be able to do when you achieve it. For example, “When I am in better shape, I’ll be able to run a mile without being out of breath. When I can run without being out of breath, I’ll be able to race in a 5K. When I can…, I will be able to…” The cycle can go on for as long as you need it to, and if the end result relies more on the opinions and thoughts of others, it’s a safe bet that you’re not setting goals for yourself.

When you’re crafting New Year’s Resolutions (or any goals, for that matter) it’s important to make sure that you’re setting goals for yourself. Not goals that are meant to make someone else happy or proud, but goals that lead you to feel fulfilled. Defining your own goals will support your own values and keep you motivated as you reach for them. Setting goals for yourself requires you to take responsibility for your own successes and will make reaching your goals that much more meaningful.


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