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The end of the year is upon us – a time to reflect, recharge, and resolve what it is about our lives that we will actively work to change starting January 1st. Debates about the merits of New Year’s resolutions abound: some swear by them, others don’t believe a certain time of the year will give us any more willpower. The bottom line, though, is that believing in the power of New Year’s resolutions is all the reason you need to come up with your own. Of course, the best resolutions are the ones that are followed through. If you’re determined to truly make a change for the better this coming year, check out some of the traps to avoid as you brainstorm your goals for 2019.

Changing Who You Are

Self-improvement is a noble and worthwhile goal, and the New Year can be an opportune time to kick some bad habits. However, there’s a line between fine-tuning certain aspects of your life and trying to change fundamental parts of who you are. For example, it’s perfectly reasonable to resolve to develop healthier eating habits in 2019. However, it’s unrealistic (and unfair) not to allow yourself to indulge every once in a while, if doing so brings you joy and doesn’t come at the expense of your overall health. The best resolutions come from a place of self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Seeking External Validation

Though it’s inevitable to be influenced to some degree by our surroundings, it’s important to be wary of making decisions for the sake of others’ opinions. Becoming healthier, more fit, more outgoing, or more spontaneous are examples of excellent ideas for resolutions – if they are qualities you genuinely believe will make you happier. Too often, we make decisions geared towards adhering to a status quo, be it professional, social, or familial. Go on that trip because you want to. Learn the violin because it’s your favorite instrument. Take up that weird hobby that your friends don’t understand to satiate your curiosity. By making your resolutions about pursuing your genuine passions, you’ll set yourself up to stick with them.

Setting Unrealistic Expectations

All of the rhetoric about renewal, new beginnings, and turning over a new leaf can lend itself to misconceptions about what’s immediately possible. Of course, few things are unattainable in the long run. However, it’s important to set realistic, gradual goals in order to avoid setting yourself up for disappointment. If you’ve always wanted to run a marathon, start by resolving to be able to run five miles. Don’t beat yourself up or lose momentum during the months you struggle to power through. If you’ve decided to learn a new language, resolve to be able to understand movies and TV shows without relying on subtitles. Rethink your resolution to lose 30 pounds, and focus instead on being able to complete new exercises and become stronger. Give yourself measurable checkpoints on the road to accomplishing your overarching goal. Celebrate the small victories, be patient with yourself through the struggles, and enjoy the journey of growth that this new year can bring you.

New Year’s resolutions can be a powerful tool for self improvement, allowing us to think about our habits alongside our goals and make changes accordingly. Though it’s tempting to get wrapped up in the excitement of the end of the year, remember that the road towards reaching resolutions is long and imperfect. Avoid being overeager, restless, and unrealistic. Instead, be true to who you are, be kind to yourself, and be patient. Set clear, measurable goals with your own well-being and happiness in mind. The rest will follow, both in 2019 and beyond.