New Year’s Resolutions: Why a Personal Mantra Might Be Better

January 1 on Calendar

When January 1 rolls around, many people embark on achieving well intentioned resolutions.  As we near the end of the first month of 2015, how well are you doing in these worthwhile goals?

Or, based on past setbacks from prior resolutions, did you just scrap the whole idea of resolutions in the first place?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a resolution is “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.”  As a result, resolutions require three things:

  1. Identifying the underlying problem (rather than the symptoms of that problem)
  2. Determining what you want instead of that problem (your goal or ideal state)
  3. Setting up a doable plan so that you can achieve that goal

Personally, I have always set new year’s resolutions – some of which I’ve even achieved.  Unfortunately, others I’ve carried over into the next year with the infamous refrain, “This year I’m going to actually achieve this!”

In 2014, I watched an interview in which the guest talked about using a word or phrase to guide your actions through the new year.  Instead of setting up resolutions that can easily go off track, this word or phrase would keep you focused on the overall effect of the goals that you want to achieve.

So I tried it.  My word/mantra for 2014 was “Forward!”

Many things happened in 2014, including the terminal illness of my father and administration of his estate.  While I didn’t eschew goals in 2014, I kept focusing on the act of moving “forward.”  At the end of the year, I looked back on what could only be described as a very difficult 12 months – and, yes, I had moved forward in ways that I had not anticipated.

As a result, I felt energized that I had achieved my over-arching goal.  The subgoals that I had created (I don’t advocate giving up goals and projects totally) may not have been achieved, but I could see that in each category I had indeed moved forward.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Finding Your Personal Mantra (a Guiding Word or Phrase)

The act of creating a personal mantra is very similar to creating a compelling vision.  It must speak to your heart and not just your head.  It needs to be noble and worthwhile.

It also needs to have “wiggle room” – not so specific that there is a win/fail or zero/sum result, but directional so that you can adjust and adapt as you navigate toward it.

You can use an ideal, value, attitude, state of mind or body, or even an adverb that describes how you will act.  But whatever word or short phrase that you choose, it needs to indicate the need for motion or activity in order to attain it.

But, perhaps most importantly, it must speak to you.  Brainstorm whatever words come into your head; write them down and observe how you feel when you say them.  The right word or phrase will create a visceral reaction inside you.  You’ll know it when you say it – and it doesn’t matter if no one else “gets it.”  This mantra is uniquely yours and provides a direction (rather than a specific destination) to constantly reference as you move through each day.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

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