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How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions (Sex Therapy Edition)



*Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash


Say what you will about New Year’s Resolutions, but done right they are a powerful tool in building habits that can lead to a better life.


Of course, the new year isn’t the only time you should be working on developing yourself as a whole person—but it’s as good a starting line as any, for your strategic plan of action.


In an increasingly chaotic world, strategic goal-setting is more important than ever for people hoping to make progress in their lives. And we all have things we need to work on—from empathy to exercise, from social life to sexuality.


So here’s a few minutes of free coaching tips for keeping your resolutions and gradually transforming yourself for lasting success in wellness, relationships, and sex.



Resolution vs goal


When it comes to “New year, new me” declarations, people often confuse resolutions with goals. That’s why it’s easy to dismiss New Year’s resolutions as frivolous. I’m going to be nicer...I’m going to quit smoking...I’m going to lose weight…


Those are all great aspirations—but they don’t become resolutions until you break them down into a recurring plan of action. In other words, a resolution is a promise to do the work.


If I say my New Year’s resolution is to be nicer, what I’m really saying is my goal is to be nicer. My resolution is the action plan I promise to stick to, in order to achieve that.


What follows is one simple method I use for setting my own self-improvement goals each year, in areas of my life including physical fitness, business, and sexual wellness.



Turning your goals into resolutions



First and most important: write them down.


In sex therapy, journaling is a powerful tool for helping people explore their thoughts to examine how thoughts and behavior patterns create feedback loops. Writing things down makes them more tangible. Which helps you develop them into strategies you can maintain for the whole year.


This year, I divided my goals into 8 different categories:

  1. Deepening family connections

  2. Nurturing friendships

  3. Career and business

  4. Intellectual development

  5. Physical wellness

  6. Mental wellness

  7. Spiritual wellness

  8. Sexual wellness


Then I broke down each goal by asking:

  • What do I want to accomplish?

  • Why am I doing it?

  • How will I do it?

  • When and how often?


Most self-improvement resolutions work best in weekly blocks. Daily requirements don’t leave much room for error or natural conflicts like illness, travel, or just one of those days. Just make sure you’re realistic in your goal breakdowns, and that you treat yourself like the powerful but imperfect human that you are.


Here’s a closer look at some of my goals and resolutions for 2021:



Deepen family connections



As my daughters have gotten older, they’ve filled their own schedules with their own pursuits. And friends. Lots and lots of time with friends. Naturally I applaud this, but I’ve also realized that I need to prioritize family time to make sure we stay close.


What’s my goal?

Spend more quality time with my daughters.


Why am I doing it?

With my busy schedule, I want to make sure we don’t drift apart as they grow toward adulthood.


How will I do it?

I’ll dedicate 15 minutes for each daughter, one-on-one with no distractions or motherly agenda.


When and how often?

Daily. With my youngest it will probably work best during her nighttime routine. With my older daughters I may have to be more flexible.


To put it in resolution form: This year I’ll dedicate 15 minutes each day with each daughter for one-on-one time.



Nurturing friendships



Quarantine sucks for an extrovert—but my social support network has kept me afloat through some very trying months of personal and national difficulty. Realizing how important my friendships are inspired me to make a resolution for nurturing those relationships.


What’s my goal?

Strengthen my bonds with friends


Why?

Close platonic relationships are vital for managing stress and getting through difficult experiences.


How will I do it?

Regular Zoom calls with my 3 closest girlfriends.


When and how often?

Monthly, at the same time each month (e.g. every second Friday)


So here’s my 2021 resolution for nurturing friendships: I will organize a monthly Zoom conversation with my 3 closest girlfriends.






Physical wellness



I’m naturally a pretty active person—but it’s all too easy to slip into bad habits. That’s why I always include a physical wellness resolution, to give myself a structure for staying active.


What’s my goal?

Increase my lung strength and improve my cardiovascular health.


Why?

Heart disease runs in my family, so staying physically active is a must if I want to live a full and healthy life. I also have asthma, so my lungs need to be extra strong to help me manage it.


How will I do it?

I’ll take frequent brisk walks—either on the treadmill at home, around the neighborhood, or on local hikes.


When and how often?

20 minutes at least 5 days per week.


So to lay it all out, my 2021 resolution for physical wellness is: I will walk briskly for 20 minutes, at least 5 days per week.



Accountability and extrinsic rewards


The next secret to keeping New Year’s resolutions is setting yourself up for success. That means establishing the rules and how they’re enforced. Extending your accountability to an outside source can relieve some of the burden of choice.


In fact, one of the crucial aspects of sex therapy and relationship coaching is providing third-party accountability for people working on their relationship goals. When people know they’re going to reflect and review their progress with someone outside the relationship, they’re far more likely to do the work.


But you don’t have to pay a coach to help—instead you can send your resolutions to a trusted friend or two and ask them to help you stay accountable. You can even add an extrinsic reward to help reinforce the accountability. For example: Every three months you keep it up, you’ll treat yourself to XYZ.


Whatever you do, make sure you leave yourself some wiggle room. If your resolutions are too restrictive, you won’t keep them. And be creative when it comes to accountability and resolutions.


Speaking of which—if you’re reading this, I’m recruiting you as a silent witness to my 2021 resolutions. Want to follow my progress, including exclusive stories about my business and sexual wellness goals? Sign up for my twice-monthly newsletter.



Hoping to make noticeable, measured gains this year? Write down your self-improvement goals (use my format if you like). Then share this article on your social media with your resolution as the caption—and tag @SexTherapistRVA for accountability support!



Photo by Alexander Stein Photography


*** Produced with Quillpower.