Dear New Shrink,

You won’t believe this, but my husband and I actually got into an argument over New Year’s resolutions. It’s nothing serious, mostly silly but I thought I would ask your opinion on it.

I won’t say whom, but one of us thinks that resolutions are nonsense and the other thinks that they are important because they help us set our goals and to try to be disciplined for the year ahead.

What do you think?

Signed,

Silly

Dear Silly,

I don’t think that resolutions are silly at all but the truth is that most of us do not keep them. This is primarily because we over shoot the mark. We make major promises to ourselves that we are not likely to keep because they are not realistic.

If you are going to make a resolution, you need to consider several things.

1. Is this a realistic goal or a pipe dream?

2. Look over the past year, was there something you know you needed to change or work on but somehow you did not get around to it? If so, maybe that should be a goal for 2011, a resolution, if you are going to keep your promise to yourself this time.

3. Many of our resolutions are unrealistic because they are simply beyond our control; not something we can do on our own without help.

4. If you are talking about stopping some self-destructive behavior like drinking, drugging, overeating, spending, gambling etc., your resolution should be, “I am going to get help with this and try my best to stop it” with the help! Decide what a few help options might be and give yourself until the end of January (no longer) to research them and pick one to get started with immediately.

5. If you have marital conflict or relationship issues, and you had them around this time last year, you need to consider getting the appropriate help and quit wasting time on something so valuable. In order to make your resolution real, have it be that you will call someone for help before the end of January.

6. Lots of people join gyms, spend money on sign-ups for self help seminars, but don’t follow through a month or two later. Don’t waste the money. Think it through and if you decide it’s right for you, perhaps tell a friend or two about it so that you are more likely to keep your commitment.

7. Don’t make promises to yourself that you can’t keep. Try to be as self-reflective and honest with yourself as you can be and then choose realistic goals. Again, consider telling a friend, or using the buddy system.

8. Keep in mind that we often feel guilty or bad about ourselves if we don’t keep a resolution, so what is the point of making it if we haven’t really thought it through and made sure that it is a good one for us?

9. It is a good idea to use the first of the year to take stock of ourselves and to think about what we need to be doing going forward. Use your time and thoughts wisely rather then making resolutions that are not well thought out or truly important.

10. In thinking about yourself, be introspective; think about what is valuable and meaningful to you. Whatever you decide to do, it should be based on what is truly important to you and not on what others may think or what you want to do to impress someone else.

11. Perhaps you want to do something to help others, contribute in some way to your community? Maybe your resolution is not just about doing something for you. Resolutions should not only be realistic, they should be meaningful and something you really can and will do because of their importance and value to you.

12. Finally, a resolution is meant to be about bringing you more joy and happiness in the coming year. So make sure that you make one or more that will bring you true inner joy.

Remember, resolutions mean that we have resolved to do something. This requires serious contemplation and should always be something you are sure you want to do, will get help doing if need be, and something that is meaningful to you and will bring joy to your heart.

Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her web site at www.drbarge.com. Send anonymous questions and replies to newshrink@gmail.com. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.