As an ambitious kid, I often created New Year’s resolutions that were a little over the top—long lists of alphabetized goals and habits that rarely stuck past February. Now that I’m older and have a more realistic sense of what I can accomplish, I prefer a more flexible approach focused on things I’m already doing well.
Thinking about habits I want to continue, rather than starting from scratch or overhauling routines, helps build momentum and enables more lasting growth.
As the new year approaches, here are three questions to ask yourself to remember what went well this year as you shape the next one. Feel free to pull out your journal, jot down phrases in your notes app, or think about these prompts on your next walk, drive, or commute.
1. When did I feel the most joy this year?
As my mission president liked to say, life is “brutiful”—beautiful and brutal at once. While a year is only a small moment in the sum total of a lifetime, it is often packed with events that both expand and stretch our souls (see 2 Nephi 2:11).
As the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox beautifully described it:
“We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.”
While our brains are wired to remember difficult and painful moments more than positive ones, this “burden” of experiencing a wide range of emotions every year is what allows us to truly experience joy.
Try setting a timer for a few minutes and brainstorming when you felt the most joy this year. These memories don’t need to be big events like weddings or birthdays—you can also focus on the small daily things that made you happy.
Social worker Deb Dana coined the term “glimmers” to describe these micro-moments of joy, like seeing a cute cat or noticing a beautiful sunset. Some of my favorite glimmers are feeling the wind in my hair, singing along to music in my car, and laughing with loved ones. These things remind me of God’s goodness and provide tiny bursts of joy that can propel me through difficult times.
2. What am I most proud of this year?
In an address for the 2008 Brigham Young University Women’s Conference, Sister Sheri L. Dew said, “Our spirits crave to progress, and if we aren’t moving forward, we’re not happy.”
As we reflect on how we have grown from year to year, we can experience a greater sense of purpose and motivation. This life is the time for us to learn and “prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32), and He will help refine and guide us as we grow to become like Him.
Think about what you’re most proud of from the last 12 months—significant accomplishments and small wins alike. Whether you started a new job, improved your general knowledge of the New Testament through Come, Follow Me, or even made your bed consistently, create a list of your personal victories this year. These successes can help you realize how much you have accomplished, more than you might initially think.
3. How can I feel more joy and fulfillment next year?
Now that you’ve given some thought to what brought you the most joy and fulfillment this year, consider how you can plan to have more of these experiences next year.
For example, in doing this exercise, I realized that my favorite moments this year were spent with loved ones and friends. As I plan ahead, I can prioritize reaching out to others and making room for “quality time” in my calendar.
Rather than creating a list of goals or New Year’s resolutions, some people find it helpful to choose a word or theme to focus on during the upcoming months. My word for last year was “boundaries,” and I focused on practicing saying “no” to good things in order to make room for better things. As President Oaks has taught:
“Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.”
If you need word ideas for the new year, you could consider picking one of the Christlike attributes highlighted in Preach My Gospel:
- Charity and love
You might also pick a word for a specific season or aspect of your life. If you want to select words for more than one category, you could even take a page out of the Church’s Children and Youth program. It encourages goal-setting focused on four areas based on the Savior’s development (see Luke 2:52): spiritual, social, physical, and intellectual.
No matter which approach you choose, find a strategy that works best for you and makes you feel inspired and motivated. The Savior is the perfect example of how we can find more joy in our lives, and any steps we take to live His gospel and draw closer to Him will bring us more peace, love, and goodness (see Galatians 5:22–23).
These benefits extend far beyond just next year. As President Russell M. Nelson has taught, “the very things that will make your mortal life the best it can be are exactly the same things that will make your life throughout all eternity the best it can be!”
So, let’s work together to make this year our best yet. Don’t forget how far you’ve come as you fix your eyes on where you’re going.
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