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A Guide to Creating New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Actually Achieve

A majority of New Year's Resolutions fail by February. If this rings true for you, it's possible your goal-setting skills are getting in the way. Make this your year for setting goals that are meaningful, practical, and possible.

As we approach the end of 2018, you may find yourself reflecting on the goals you had for the year. If you did set resolutions, are you able to remember them? Did you achieve any? If so, amazing! Give yourself a round of applause! If not, you’re not alone. According to U.S. News & World Report 80% of new year’s resolutions fail by February. What exactly goes wrong in this process?


Are we fueled by superficial intentions?

Do we lack motivation and inspiration?

Are we rushed to set a handful of glib goals?

Does our track record cause us to lose hope?

… or perhaps the idea of personal growth is a broad, vague, and intimidating concept.

There are a variety of reasons why resolutions fail, does that mean we shouldn’t even bother to make them? As a counselor educator, practitioner, and forever learner I’ve tried many goal-setting methods personally and professionally. When I think about the high rate of resolution failures I don’t necessarily believe that people are not hungry for change. I believe that setting purposeful goals is easier said than done. It’s likely that many have the hopes of personal growth, but don’t take the time to connect to their true selves, reflect on their dreams, and set an intentional path of personal growth. So before you give up setting goals altogether, maybe give a shot at adjusting your method.  To help you prepare for a prosperous new year I happily share my favorite method with you, mind mapping.

What is a mind map?

A mind map is a non-linear visual method that facilitates brainstorming. Although brainstorming has existed for centuries, the foundation for mind mapping began with Roger Sperry’s illuminating brain research which promoted linking the left and right hemispheres of the brain with words, images, colors, and direct association. The left side pertains to sequences, analysis, lists, words, and logic whereas the right side pertains to imagination, emotion, color, and shapes. Inspired by Sperry, Tony Buzan coined the term “mind mapping” and popularized the process which activates both hemispheres and causes an increase of productivity and memory retention in the brainstorming process. In the decades since, mind mapping has gained attention for its utility in several areas such as comprehension, creative thinking, connecting details, collecting data, and exchanging information, all processes that are helpful for goal-setting. So let’s go ahead and jump into that!

Example of a mind map from www.TonyBuzan.com

Mind Map Prep

Mind mapping allows you to connect to your values, hopes, and dreams. In order to do so, you need to create a comfortable and safe environment to allow yourself to reflect prior to beginning the process. Set your intentions in whatever way works for you. Maybe that means creating a playlist of your favorite songs, delving into a meditation, saying a prayer, shutting your devices off, or using candles and/or aromatherapy to establish a calming ambiance.

When considering the domains for your goals consider what is important to you. What areas are essential to put energy towards? It’s common to set physical goals and you may hear your family and friends’ aspirations, but turn up the volume on your inner voice. Of course similarities may exist with the goals of others’ however, domains should be subjective and intentional. If it isn’t an area of importance to you, consider leaving space for goals that will bring you happiness.

Grab a sheet of paper and whatever craft materials you would like. It might be helpful to begin with colored pens, pencils, crayons and/or markers. Feel free to use any craft items you prefer…in the spirit of New Years, gold glitter seems appropriate. If you prefer the digital method, there are several sites to help you. Here are a few examples:

  • www.mindjet.com
  • www.imindmap.com
  • www.matchware.com
  • www.novamind.com

How to Mind Map Your 2019 Goals

  1. Place the title in the middle of the paper. Examples: 2018, New Year’s Resolutions, #GOOALLLSS
  2. From the title, use branches to radiate from the center. This allows you to create islands of secondary content. Consider these to be the topic areas for your general goals. Examples: Family, Work, Health
  3. For each domain use branches to list general goals that you’d like to achieve within a year.  When brainstorming general goals, allow your mind to do its thing.  Instead of pressuring your brain to focus on one domain at a time, what you may think are “distracting thoughts” may be your mind pulling you to recognize another goal. Allow those thoughts in and let them guide you to the area that needs attention in that moment. Examples: Get a promotion, Plan a family reunion, Go to a Backstreet Boys Concert
  4. For each goal, consider the mini-goals that need to be in place to achieve the noted goal. When considering mini-goals it is helpful to think about what you need to accomplish to get to your general goals. Sometimes these may be necessary stepping stones to use in order to achieve the final goal. Examples: Update resume, Send out a poll for availability, Contact childhood BFF

A few more tips…

  • You are not only suggested, but encouraged, to go beyond words. Utilize colors, drawings, symbols, and pictures. This helps you to connect both hemispheres of the brain and allows you to customize the mind map to your liking.
  • Try to be intentional with your timing. If you already have dates (e.g., graduation) go ahead and add them. If not, no need to, technically you have an entire year. However, setting ideal dates may help to keep you motivated and focused.
  • Goal-setting doesn’t have to be done independently. Grab your supportive friends try out mind mapping together. If you choose this option, still create time for personal reflection prior and try to limit chatting during the beginning of the process. Once you think you have the gist of your 2019 dreams fleshed out, perhaps you choose to share. Hearing what others have may trigger your recollection of an area that’s important to you. But remember, goals are not a one-size-fits-all type of thing, it’s okay to hear a goal that sounds incredible for your friend, but just isn’t the right fit for you. 
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