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New Years resolutions can be beneficial for people looking to improve their lives in 2014, but an effective New Year’s resolution requires more consideration than we often intentionally dedicate to the task. In order to choose a New Year’s resolution that is realistic and achievable, I recommend starting with a good end-of-year self-evaluation.

Proper self-evaluation is important when setting a realistic New Year's resolution.As we’ve seen before, An end-of-year review may not be beneficial for everyone, especially those suffering with severe anxiety, social anxiety, or depression. High standards can be useful, if we don’t put so much pressure on ourselves that our performance is ultimately reduced, and if we don’t treat failure to accomplish every one of those lofty goals as catastrophes.


How can you make a good end-of-year self-evaluation?

First, it is important to accept that perfection is not a reasonable goal.

Second, it is important to identify those areas of our lives that matter the most to us.  We can then focus our review of the year on those areas.  If we already set specific goals or New Year’s resolutions last year, we might want to consider them as well, assuming they are reasonable.

Third, a useful review of the year focuses on examining how next year can be improved.  When we commit to looking at areas of our lives that we had some control over, the review is more productive.  If we cannot change something, it seldom helps us to spend time dwelling on it.

Finally, for those areas that are especially important to us and where we have some control, we can take time and examine:

  • What progress we have made in that area
  • Whether or not we have met our key goals, stated or unstated
  • Whether the strategies we employed were a good fit for the task
  • Whether our effort was at a reasonable level for that area
  • The degree to which unexpected and uncontrollable barriers prevented progress
  • Whose assistance contributed to our successes

Sometimes it is also useful to seek feedback from others whose opinions we trust and value.  They can often be less biased.  They are less likely to experience the bias of mood-dependent memory, where we recall only those events that match our mood of the moment. Still, this is an area to be cautious—many people who provide feedback will fail to recognize how easily our feelings can be hurt.  So we need to brace ourselves for the feedback, and choose these people wisely, if at all.

Please see part two of this series for tips on avoiding common mistakes in your self-evaluation and New Year’s Resolution.

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