Not Your Usual New Year’s Resolutions – How Instagram helped me make better goals

As I was recently doom scrolling on Instagram (it’s okay, we counselors do it too!), I came
across a post in which the creator instructs you to write a list of 20 things you want to
accomplish in the new year. Me, currently working on my own struggles with perfectionism,
said “only 20?” So I continued to pause the video and write out 28 things I would love to
accomplish in 2024 before playing the video again and being told to circle only 5 list items that I
felt were the biggest goals, the necessary ones to happen first. After circling those items, the
creator of the video threw a truth bomb deep into my soul, so much so that I almost wanted to
throw my whole list away: these five items are your big goals, the things you should be taking
the whole year to figure out and actually complete – the rest of the list is full of things that are
only holding you back from completing your primary goals.

Ouch! I thought my huge list of 28 items was incredible, that no list item should be shunned in
such a manner. However, after reflecting on what the video creator said as well as how
potentially unnecessary my list item of “eat healthier – make less box mac and cheese” was, I’m
finally starting to agree that the top five items are really the only ones I need on my list.

So you may be asking, what do I do with the other 23 list items? If they were important enough
to write down in the first place, they must be important enough to focus on throughout the
year. Well, I will be keeping the other 23 list items in my heart and hope to use them as goals
for self-care, but my focus doesn’t necessarily need to remain on avoiding Kraft boxes at my
grocery store all year. But I can use these items as filler goals and things to put some attention
to – such as taking a few nights a week to make a healthy dinner – but not to put my whole
focus on – such as still having some back up mac and cheese in my pantry.

It’s a realistic part of crafting goals for the new year to get sidetracked, so I will give myself the
grace of losing my focus a bit on my primary five goals throughout the next 12 months. But I
will also give myself the power of my own list, so I know that my five goals are things that I am
truly passionate about completing, therefore more likely to actually complete.

So, now I ask you to craft your list.

What things do you want to complete in 2024?

Which tasks, events, and relationships are you going to put a focus towards?

Now, circle your top 5

-and it’s okay to feel frustrated or conflicted in this process. Pick 5 items that are truly meaningful to

you, that you feel will create a wonderful, fun, and productive 2024 for you.

Now look at your list. Are there any patterns in which items you circled, or is there any theme

amongst the items? What didn’t you circle, and what are your reactions to not having circled

them? If you’re feeling any anxiousness or apprehension to not focusing on an item that was

not circled, know that this list is not set in stone. But I challenge you to also remember the

original purpose of the creator’s video: these excess list items are inherently a distraction to

your top 5, so let’s work to find peace with either dumping these other tasks or letting them

happen in the background.

How can you find peace with getting rid of these list items when they felt so important while
you were writing the list? Well, here are a few ideas to try:

 Break down the goals into smaller pieces – this can help to make the goal more
manageable over time, which may help you to complete the goal in the background of
your daily tasks without having to put too much focus to it.

 Reflect on the themes of your goals – if you have several goals that are related to one
thing such as maintaining relationships, work, finances, self-care, cleaning, or exercising,
how can these goals either be broken down or combined? How may they already fit into
your top 5 goals list?

 Set your intentions for the year – this is similar to reflecting on the themes, but take
specific notice to how you want to feel while completing your goals as well as how you
want to feel after they are accomplished. Are there specific boundaries that you want to
hold for yourself in completing these goals?

 Make the goals realistic – we’ve been told about making goals SMART (Specific,
Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely), and this can be a great method for
evaluating your goals. I’ve never really loved this method after filling out so many
SMART goal sheets in school, so I like feeling out my goals by asking if they are realistic
to me as a person in this moment, and if not, what do I need to do to feel that the goal is
actually attainable? This is also where I determine if I need someone else’s help in
accomplishing the goal, as well as how I can politely ask for other people’s time and
focus on my own goals.

 Take a step back – zoom out, leave the list alone for a couple days, come back to it when
it’s not overwhelming and you can focus on a single list item at a time. Whether your
original list is 6 items and you only have to get rid of one, or 28 items like mine was, it
will take time to determine which items to remove as they are important to you,
otherwise you wouldn’t have written them in the first place. Take some time to sit with
what you’re feeling and practice acceptance here – just because the task doesn’t make
the top 5 doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to you, nor that it can’t still happen in the
future. Practice aligning your goals to your personal values.

 Get inspired with your loved ones – practice making or editing down your list with your
friends and family to see what others’ goals are, what help they may need in achieving
their goals, as well as to see who is available to help you with yours. This is also great to
get some insight from your favorite people on which goals you should choose in your
top 5, as friends can often be brutally honest about which goals may be superficial or
better as a background goal.

Now you should have your list of your top five items as well as maybe some honorable
mentions as a background goal list. Go forward and create your plan for how you would best
like to start and maintain these goals throughout the year, while of course also accounting for
your life as it is now. Remember to meet yourself where you are now, and determine what you
may need help with to attain your goals for the new year. And of course, always practice
kindness toward yourself! Goals do not happen overnight, and you’ll be planning to put your
focus into these 5 goals over the entire year, which is almost 2 ½ months per goal if they don’t
overlap at all. Expect missteps and failures, as they will help you to grow as well as figure out

whether a goal may be realistic for you or not. And continue to practice acceptance and self-
compassion throughout the year as you may find a goal is truly unrealistic and needs to be
swapped out for another. This shouldn’t happen to many goals as you spent so much time in
making the list to determine what is realistic or not, but it can happen since life throws
curveballs and sometimes throws our whole perspective out of whack! So give yourself a
breather when this happens, and reevaluate as needed.

I’m optimistic that creating this list will help me to complete my own goals and hopes for the
new year. New year’s resolutions can be difficult to keep up with if they are built on an idea
without a solid foundation, or without a feasible plan. By making this list of only the top 5 goals
that are aligned with your personal values and desires, it’s my hope that the goals will not only
be more easily attainable, but fun to complete throughout the year as they are tasks you care
deeply about and will plan to put time and effort into. So remember to have fun with your list
and create tasks that are truly meaningful to you, as well as to practice self-care and
compassion while choosing items that align with your values. And if you feel lost in practicing
acceptance while editing your list or confused on determining your values, you can always
reach out to your loved ones – or your friendly neighborhood counselors – to help you along
your journey!

Editors note: Isn’t it funny that we can’t remember where we find things…we go back to search for it again and cannot find it. This is what happened in the making of this blog idea. For the life of me, I have been unable to find the original link for the post.

Carrie Nelson, M.S., LPCC