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New Year’s Resolutions: Eight Questions to Answer First

champagneNow is the time that most people start thinking about what resolutions they want to make for the New Year. But before you undertake that task, you’d be well advised to reflect back on this past year first. You can start by looking at last year’s list of resolutions and reflecting on how things went. Even if you don’t have such a list, you can still ask yourself some questions such as:

  1. Did I do what I planned to do last year? If not, what happened to stop me?
  2. What were my most memorable experiences and accomplishments last year?
  3. What worked for me last year?
  4. What didn’t turn out the way I’d liked? Is there anything I could have done to change that outcome?
  5. What did I enjoy last year?
  6. What made me feel sad, angry, upset, or distressed last year? Are there things I could do to minimize or reduce such experiences in the future?
  7. Did I focus and spend time on the things that I value? If not, why not?
  8. Were there things that gravely upset me at the time last year that I now see were unimportant?

Please don’t use these questions as a way of tearing yourself down. Beating yourself up will only serve to keep you stuck. Instead, use your answers to help you learn from your experiences.

If you’re familiar with the popular mindfulness movement, you may think it’s a bad idea to even reflect on the past. After all, mindfulness exhorts you to focus on and live your life in the present. In general, that’s good advice. However, it’s simply not realistic to live your entire life in the present. Use your experiences to give you insights about what’s working in your life and what isn’t.

In other words, use the past to help you develop plans for the future. Then go out and live your life in the present. In a couple of days, Laura will tell you how to develop a healthy, effective list of resolutions for the coming year.

Champagne photo available from Shutterstock.

New Year’s Resolutions: Eight Questions to Answer First

Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D.

Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and a Founding Fellow in the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. He is also a member of the faculty at Fielding Graduate University. He specializes in the treatment of adolescents and adults with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, anger, depression, and personality disorders. Dr. Elliott is coauthor of: Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies (2nd Ed), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies, Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies, Anxiety and Depression Workbook For Dummies, Depression For Dummies, Why Can't I Get What I Want?, Why Can’t I Be the Parent I Want to Be?, and Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth. His website is:

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APA Reference
Elliott, C. (2011). New Year’s Resolutions: Eight Questions to Answer First. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Dec 2011
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