How-To Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick: Focus on Influence not Control

Focus on Influence not Control

Focus on Influence not Control

There’s something about a fresh start. It holds the promise of what feels possible, perhaps even transformational. It’s a moment in your life when your wish for something more, for something better, is planted like a seed. Yet, you might wonder, can I do it?

I believe you can. I’m a psychotherapist who specializes in supporting women who want greater health and happiness. I’ve discovered that the best way to keep your

resolutions on track is to focus on influence not control. By using a thoughtful approach to your goals, you build the self-confidence and resilience you need to stay committed.

As you think about your New Year’s resolutions, how you phrase what you want is just as important as what you decide to do. A 2020 Swedish study concluded that approach-oriented goals are more effective than avoidance-oriented goals.

Approach-oriented goals express what you want to cultivate more of in your life and how that will benefit you; whereas, avoidance-oriented goals aim to eliminate behaviors or emphasize the negative outcome. For example, if weight loss is a goal you have, an approach-oriented goal might be “I will feel more energetic and stronger if I walk daily”. An avoidance-oriented goal might say “I need to stop eating sugar so that I can lose weight”.

Who you are is a continuously evolving process that lasts your entire life. This is why it’s important to stay mindful of how your needs, wants, and desires are changing over time. A New Year’s resolution can be a wonderful way to set intentions that affirm what matters most to you.

Here’s my top three recommendations for how to focus on influence rather than control.

1. Practice the art of revising expectations. This idea invites the mental flexibility you need to adjust your goals. When you’re looking to make changes or improvements in your life, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment of inspiration and set lofty intentions that bring a brighter future.

It’s normal to underestimate what the process is going to look and feel like. When you practice the art of revising expectations, you’re exhibiting resilience and stepping away from seeing setbacks as failure.

New Year’s resolutions are most successful when you’re willing to update them based upon how your process is evolving. This makes it easier to give yourself grace while staying dedicated to your wellness.

2. Stay curious. Ask yourself, whats possible? When you’re curious, you’re inviting the quality of openness. You’re not trying to dominate, predetermine, or control a situation. This allows you to accept where you are and what you’re capable of now.

When you ask yourself what’s possible, you encourage adaptability. By staying true to what is, it’s easier to see the options that are available to you. This builds self-nurturing and self-confidence without needing to be in control.

New Year’s resolutions that focus on what’s possible emphasize the influence you have over your life. You’re affirming what you feel capable of doing, avoiding the pitfalls of lack mentality, and concentrating your energy on taking action.

3. Resistance is normal. Disarm resistance by welcoming it. Then work with the tension creatively. Resistance is a natural part of change. It serves as a self-defense mechanism that is trying to protect you. Our natural inclination is to avoid dealing with it. By welcoming it, you automatically decrease its power over you.

Creative expression, like writing, drawing, and singing, is a powerful way to convey the resistance you feel. It gives you the chance to get it off your chest, decreasing the pressure you feel. When you can see your resistance, it becomes easier to work through mindfully.

By approaching your New Year’s resolutions from a place of accepting the process of change, your resistance becomes less of a roadblock. This helps you move away from all-or-nothing thinking, which is based on a desire to control, towards seeing your goals on a spectrum of evolution and growth.

Embrace your fresh start this New Year’s by focusing on the influence you have over your life. May these recommendations help you improve your health and wellness in ways that are sustainable, flexible, and compassionate.

Stephanie McleodStephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor who is passionate about helping people live life boldly, no matter what kinds of obstacles they face. Learn more about her work at and subscribe to her Let’s talk Art Therapy; Tips, Tools, Strategies & Resources newsletter.



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