STRONGER TOGETHER: Taking action on New Year's Resolutions through self determination

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Last updated: 03/01/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses how self-determination impacts your ability see through your New Year's Resolutions.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Every New Year, people all over the world set themselves New Year's resolutions in a bid to create positive change in their lives.

It’s common for people to set goals for themselves and then fail to follow through with them. It’s also common for people to achieve their goals yet be left feeling unhappy or unfulfilled.

What makes a goal worthwhile and ‘sticky’ enough for us to see it through to the end?

How do we ensure that once a goal is achieved, we will be left feeling positive emotions linked to good mental health and wellbeing?

Every day I hear people setting goals for themselves. They want to lose weight; exercise more; spend more time with their friends; or carve out some time to finish a book that they started three years ago.

I love a good ‘to do’ list, and this list forms an essential part of achieving the priorities and goals that I set for myself. But as important as that list is, I also know that the more that I identify with a task and understand the value of it, the more likely I will be to not only finish it, but to also feel a sense of progress and achievement once it is completed.

When psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan introduced the idea of self-determination theory in 1985, they suggested that people are driven by a need to grow and achieve fulfillment. When goals do not reflect the interests or values of a person, they are less likely to put time and energy into achieving them.

Strengthening my self-determination is a daily pursuit, and I know that some days my sense of motivation and control seems to have evaporated. The feeling associated with having the autonomy and the freedom to make choices important to you is like an intravenous drip that feeds directly into your self-determination muscle, and the more consistently you practice and create that feeling, the stronger that muscle will get over time.

If you are struggling to identify with how you could strengthen your self-determination, have a think about some of the traits a highly self-determined person might have.

  • Think about their point of control. Imagine what it’s like to believe that your behaviour has a direct influence on a goal or outcome.
  • Think about their level of self-motivation. Imagine what it’s like not to rely on external factors to drive your behaviour. Instead, you have an internal desire to set and consistently work towards goals and priorities that are important to you.
  • Think about the choices they make. Imagine engaging in actions that you know will bring you closer to achieving your goals. What are those actions and what will it take to make them happen?
  • Think about the way they take responsibility for their actions. Imagine being fully accountable for the choices that you make. Taking credit for your success and accepting the contribution that you have made to any failures. Refusing to be a victim or blame others, and instead taking ownership and continuing to move forward towards finding a solution. 

For many, this time of year provides the opportunity to reflect on the year that has been and reset priorities for next year. Have you smashed your goals over the last 12 months? If so, I applaud you!

If you see some areas where your best laid plans have remained dormant over the last 12 months, consider why.

Could it be that your self-determination needs a bit of a boost?

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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