Looking back and ahead: redefining our new year's resolutions

Joan F. Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California

Clothe with life the weak intent; let me be the thing I meant. (John Greenleaf Whittier)

Yet another year has flown by, and yet another set of resolutions has been partially fulfilled or postponed to a later stage for execution. Very few of us have probably managed to bring all of our self-promises to a gratifying end, simply because some of them involved others in order to be executed well, and it was right then and there that the trouble started. Let's analyze the just posed statement with three simple examples:

  • If, for instance, you had planned to get married this year, but your partner met someone new, passed away, or simply turned out to be an insensitive jerk, you may now have to list that resolution as "unfulfilled," although you have no reason to feel bad about your own performance. As long as your intuition tells you that you've done the very best from your side, there's nothing to blame yourself for.
  • If, for another instance, you had anticipated to finish your study this year, but you did not pass your exams and, hence, found your plans delayed by at least another semester, don't feel bad either! Again, as long as you've done all you could, there's nothing to mourn about, except maybe the loss of time.
  • If your boss had verbally promised you a promotion this year, based on your extraordinary performance and the liking he took into you as an over-achiever, but unfortunately your boss died, retired, or accepted another job halfway this year without notifying anyone regarding your pending promotion, you shouldn't feel defeated. Understood: it may be that your biggest competitor at work will now get the desired position, due to the aggravating way politics seem to work, but, hey, you've done all you could! No need to feel like a loser...
  • The three examples above are all focused on a different field: one on private matters, one on study, and one on work. Yet, they all have one thing in common: they involve other people and their opinions about you. The unfortunate part about that is, that the role you play in their life may be smaller than the role they play in yours. However, no matter where things went in an undesired direction, you cannot change them anymore. Important now is to look ahead and use the experiences from the past months as a lesson in your next phase of planning.

    First of all, you will have to adjust your focus and define new goals in all the areas where outcomes were less favorable.

    Second, you will have to make sure now that the way you formulate your next set of goals is such that the input of others will not influence the overall outcomes.

  • Instead of planning to get married: plan to be happy! That can be achieved with or without marriage, right?

  • Instead of planning to graduate: plan to perform as best as you can in all your courses! That can still be the case when others are not fond of your study topics or the way you defend them, right?

  • Instead of planning to get promoted: plan to be your best self at work, display your best attitude, and go the extra mile! That is also possible when supervisors don't stay around long enough to promote you, right?
  • There is one major advantage to the above-mentioned perceptual change of your resolutions: reaching your goals is now in your own hands. You will succeed in achieving them with or without others' cooperation. And your objectives are now actually broader: you have lifted the stressing boundaries--in the above-mentioned examples marriage, graduation and promotion--and expanded them into the relaxing reality of what lies in your own power.

    Good luck with your resolutions for the coming year!