New Year’s Resolutions: What Really Matters


For the last week I’ve seen many articles exploring some variation of what constitutes a good New Year’s resolution.  There is a strangely defeatist feeling about this yearly round of “I should be a better person, and I know I’m going to fail anyway” tradition.  What jumps out at me is that so many of the resolutions that we make are centered around issues that are shame-magnets:  eating behavior, exercise, how we look, spending and other money related issues, smoking, drinking and other addictive behaviors. It’s as though having allowed ourselves to enjoy the holidays we are now filled with shame and the need to distance ourselves from whatever behaviors we may have indulged in.  The problem is that shame and guilt are almost always self-defeating.  We feel bad, we set ourselves unrealistic goals, we fail, and then we feel badly again and indulge in the very behaviors we set out to avoid.  The only times that I believe shame or guilt are productive is when we have behaved in a way that is not in keeping with the person we want to be in the world, and it motivates us to make amends to someone we may have injured.  Otherwise, take a minute or two to notice the feeling and what may be behind it, and then let it go.

Nonetheless, I do believe that there is value in using the turning of the year as a time for self-reflection and change.  This can be a good time for self-assessment, a time to ask ourselves “who do I want to be in the world, what kind of life do I want to be living, and then what do I need to do to begin to manifest this vision?”

As I thought about it this year it became clear to me that I know who I am and what matters to me, but I often let myself get distracted, and then I feel frustrated and anxious.  In particular I am aware of how computer related activities will entice me in such a way that I emerge hours later feeling tense and scattered, without having accomplished what was important to me.  So my challenge to myself is to be more structured with my time, and to be aware of when I am straying from what feels essential, to take the quiet time I need to think and read and write, and to make sure that I spend time each day nurturing my body and my soul.  I have a feeling that if I do this, all of my relationships will benefit.

So try asking yourself:

What really matters to me?

How do I want to be spending my time?

What do I need to do to replenish and take care of myself?

What do I need to change to bring this into reality?

You may want to journal about it or dialogue with your partner or a friend.  The dialogue process will be invaluable in helping you to clarify what really matters and where you want to put your time and energy.  Feel free to share on this blog what you come up with.

I will write next week about the process of setting yourself short term challenges.


From Coming Home:  Conversations that take your relationship to where it was meant to be

Dialogue 21:  What Makes Our Lives Meaningful

Lives are full.  There are many pressures pulling us this way and that, demands on our time, our energy, our finances.  Dialoging about what means the most to you will help you to sort through what really matters and perhaps to start thinking about how to redirect your time and energy.  As you talk together about what gives meaning to your lives you may find that a shared vision of the life you want to live emerges.  It is exciting to begin to give this vision voice.


Share with each other the parts of your life that give it the most meaning.  Talk about why it is meaningful for you.

As I think about this what I am realizing about who I am as a person is…

And what I am realizing about how I spend my time is….

And what I am realizing about how I might want to change my priorities or focus is..

One way you can support me in this is…….and I know that you may not be able to do so at this time.

Thank you for listening.

Copy write January 6, 2014

Posted by Laura

Laura Marshall, LCSW, is the founder and director of the Sagebrush Center for Relationship Therapy. Her experience spans thirty years of supporting couples and individuals to create healthy and meaningful lives and relationships. She is also adjunct faculty for the New Mexico Highlands School of Social Work. She lives with her husband Steve and five sons in Farmington, New Mexico.

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