Making new year’s career resolutions…and sticking to them
January 4, 2023
It’s January, and we all know what that means: the inevitable return of new year’s resolutions.
For many of us, December is a hazy month of unreality, characterised by the consumption of too much food and alcohol, with one day blurrily melting into the next as time loses all meaning. And then, out of nowhere, January hits like a ton of bricks, rudely awakening us from our festive slumber.
The month of January ushers in new beginnings, wiping the slate clean in preparation for positive life changes.
But, for some of us, the prospect of making ‘new year’s resolutions’ is daunting. It fills us with dread because deep down, we know that when December rolls around in twelve months’ time, we will have failed to stick to many (if not all) of our resolutions. By the time the month of January runs out, so too does much of our enthusiasm to achieve our goals for the remainder of the year.
But how do we keep up momentum and stick to our resolutions throughout 2023? According to a recent survey, 58% of the UK population will be setting themselves new year’s resolutions this year. Data from Statista has ascertained that around 20% of these will be work-related. Let’s explore some of the steps you can take that will help you stick to your career resolutions throughout the year.
Keep it realistic
Perhaps you’re starting out the year with the dream of finally receiving a long-awaited promotion or a glittering new job offer. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, it’s wise not to set these larger aspirations as your new year’s resolutions.
For one thing, these goals are too vague to measure over the course of a year in any meaningful way. How do you go about achieving them? How do you know you’re making any progress?
It’s far better to set smaller resolutions that are realistic and trackable. Perhaps there’s a project that you aspire to work on, or a professional certification you’re looking to complete. These smaller resolutions function as the building blocks that lay the foundations for your grander aspirations in the long-term.
It’s also important to keep your list of resolutions short and sweet, or else you may end up feeling swamped under the weight of expectation. Set yourself 5 realistic goals to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Do it for yourself
Far too many of us buy into the age-old narrative that we need to be achieving a certain amount in our career according to what society has deemed ‘success’ and ‘failure’. There’s a pre-determined path laid out in front of us, and we often fall into the trap of aligning our goals and aspirations to these societal expectations. We end up setting career goals for the wrong reason: with the sole intention of impressing others and appearing outwardly successful.
If you really want to stick to your resolutions this year, you need to dig deep in order to determine what it is that you truly want yourself. Your career goals should be determined with your own happiness and satisfaction in mind. Drown out the white noise of other people’s expectations; their opinions are not a solid motivation that will help you achieve your goals. Think deeply about what you want and where you want to see yourself, irrespective of social pressures and external influences.
It’s all too easy to fall victim to ‘mimetic desire’ (aspiring to achieve what others have), emulating others rather than focussing on yourself. Make sure your resolutions centre around your genuine wants and needs, or else there’s little chance of you sticking to them.
Prioritise your mental health
Obsessing over your new year’s career resolutions poses the very real risk of causing ‘ambition anxiety’: the desperate desire to succeed professionally in a bid to impress others. It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of winning and achieving, when in reality this could be costing your mental health big-time. Keep in mind that incorporating your career resolutions into your working life should feel like a marathon rather than a sprint: it’s a process that requires patience if you want to see long-term progress, and you can’t let yourself be overwhelmed by a desire to succeed.
Put your mental health at the forefront this year to remind yourself that there’s more to life than achieving your career goals. To avoid sinking under pressure, remind yourself that the stakes are not as high as you think: there’s more to life than succeeding at work. Don’t let your career aspirations dictate your life. Dedicate time and space to a new wellbeing practice this year, such as meditating, eating healthier foods, or simply going for a twenty-minute walk outside every day.
Sticking to your new year’s career resolutions can be daunting, but you don’t have to face it alone. In fact, leaning on others can be incredibly helpful when you’re setting out to achieve your goals throughout the year. Take advantage of the support system already around you (or else cultivate a new one); whether that means turning to friends and family, expanding your professional network, leaning on colleagues, or even enlisting the help of professional mentors.
And whilst you’re at it, seek out someone who can function as an accountability partner. Let your boss know what your career aspirations are and check in with them regularly to gauge how well you’re doing over the course of the year. Or, if the thought of giving your boss another opportunity to critique you sounds like your worst nightmare, ask a colleague to be your accountability partner instead.
December 19, 2023