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  • Writer's pictureDeniss Pleiner, M.A.

Three Ways to Build Resolutions That You Keep: Finding What Fits You

by Deniss Pleiner, M.A.


We all have complicated relationships with New Year Resolutions: they cause so much anxiety to think of, we choose some, and then by mid-February we are done with them and frustrated with ourselves. While I am not a fan of the traditional way of thinking of New Year’s Resolutions, I am a big fan of using this time for self-reflection.

Any time is a good time to self-reflect, and assess where we are and where we want to go --this is actually a big part of what we do in therapy. My favorite way to engage in self reflection and re-direction is with a huge portion of self-compassion. Today I’m sharing with you three of my favorite ways to develop goals starting from more specific goal-creation to more broad visions for your life. You can do all three or just one, whichever speaks most to you. Let me know in the comments down below which one you prefer.

  1. Develop SMART-E Goals: “SMART” stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound and I like to add the “E” which stands for Emotionally Connected. This style of goal-creation is most useful for those of us who like to have a clear plan and a clear goal. The pitfalls for this kind of goal creation is that you might end up being a bit harsh on yourself if you don't meet every micro-goal or milestone so make sure you continue to practice self-compassion here. I go over this kind of goal creation on a YouTube Video Titled “Creating New Year's Resolutions That Work: SMART Goals with a Twist” You can watch the full video here:

  1. Create a Vision Board: A more relaxed version of new year's resolutions which allows you to tap more into that emotion and a greater vision for what you want in life. It allows you to have a broader idea of where you are headed without the pressure of completing specific small goals. IT’s a great flexible way to choose a direction in life. The pitfall for this kind of goal-creation is that some of us complete our vision board and never look at it again. I encourage you to revisit your vision board about once a month as refresher. Your vision board can also help you make big decisions that come up for you throughout the year: ask yourself, “what decision will bring me closer to what I say I want?”

  1. Choose Intentions or Guiding Words: An even more open-ended version of goal creating is to choose 1-5 guiding words or phrases which serve as intentions. Like the vision board, it is a flexible and less-stressful way to think about your life moving forward. You may not know exactly what you want but you probably have a good idea of how you would like to feel. Choosing words or phrases like “fulfilling relationships”, “adventure”, “self-love”, “calm/peace”. Unlike the vision board or the smarty goals, it doesn't require materials or for you to commit to specific small goals. The pitfall here is that because you don’t have that commitment to smaller goals, you may lose your way. I suggest you write these words down somewhere visible and that you revisit them frequently. These words can also be your guide for big decisions. “Ask yourself: will this help me gain what I said I wanted?”

These types of goal creations can be done individually or you can combine them. Perhaps you start with guiding words and then work your way down to SMART-E goals. OR you stop with just words and a vision board. Whatever works best for you is the right answer.

I've got a full YouTube Video on these goal-creation options, watch here.

Deniss Pleiner, TOC Therapy Clinical Director smiles at the camera.
Deniss Pleiner, TOC Therapy Clinical Director

Deniss Pleiner, M.A. is the founder and Clinical Director of TOC Therapy-- a group

practice in California tailored to meet the mental

health needs of BIPOC adults through

online individual and couple's therapy. As Clinical Director, Deniss guides the clinical development of TOC Therapy Associates and oversees clinical services and offerings. Deniss also works as a Mental Health Advocate, hosting workshops for organizations interested in supporting their

member's mental health and developing emotionally intelligent leadership.


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