A New Take on New Year’s Resolutions

January 17, 2023

by: Tonya Manning

If you have January deadlines such as accounting disclosures or reserve estimates, you may have had little time to reflect on the new year. Regardless of whether it is week one of 2023 or a bit later, it is important to think about where you are at with your career and life, and consider setting goals.  

With each start of a new year, in lieu of typical resolutions, I instead consider what aspect of my character I want to improve. One year, I selected “kindness,” another year it was “discipline.” In 2020, I selected “optimism,” which proved so challenging I selected it again for 2021. By 2022, I was worn down by all-things-COVID and simply selected “perseverance” – thinking perhaps grander character building could wait.

For 2023, my ultimate goal is to enjoy all life has to offer, including the inevitable bumps and curves it throws my way. With that, I decided to focus on improving my “faith.” I believe everyone has come out of the last 3 years understanding that we cannot always be optimistic in the sense that things will work out, but we can hold onto faith and knowing that we will manage through it all regardless. Perhaps faith is simply a fusion of optimism and perseverance.  

A friend recently shared that, for the past several years on January 1, he has chosen a word or phrase to focus his thoughts for the year ahead. He has come to enjoy and appreciate this practice. This year, his phrase is "silver lining." It's his quest to identify and celebrate things positive even when confronted with the difficult or mundane. I feel we are on a similar journey.

Faith has many aspects and varied meanings, so you may think of it instead as “confidence” in managing outcomes. In an article, “Why Self-Confidence Is More Important Than You Think” for Psychology Today, Barbara Marway, Ph.D. noted, “Self-confidence is linked to almost every element involved in a happy and fulfilling life.” While confidence lowers fear and anxiety and improves motivation, Marway also noted, “Confidence gives you the skills and coping methods to handle setbacks and failure.  Self-confidence doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes fail. But you’ll know you can handle challenges and not be crippled by them. Even when things don’t turn out anywhere close to what you planned, you’ll be able to avoid beating yourself up.”

There are other possible character traits that might better suit you and where you are in your career or life journey, such as patience or empathy. Regardless, the need to improve character is ageless and timeless; as humans we will always have an area where we can be stronger. With intention, we can set ourselves up to continuously grow.

You may have already resolved to have more tactical goals for 2023. Statista indicated that the top 3 resolutions for 2023 are to exercise more, eat healthier and lose weight. These three have made the top 10 list for the last several years. Wellington Daily News, however, recently shared an old article about resolutions for 1914, where the writer advised, “Whatever you choose, let it nurture your soul, not increase your anxiety. Pick a goal that’s attainable, something that improves your life each day.” You can certainly argue that exercising more and eating healthier can improve your life, but are these goals attainable (as actuaries, we might use past data to predict future results!), and will they nurture your soul?  Maybe not.

As another bonus, selecting a character change as a resolution does not require a restrictive diet, new gym membership, a long list of tasks, or a complex project plan; character changes simply require a new focus that is executed through small actions day-to-day. C.S. Lewis once said, “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.” I like this quote since it not only references compound interest (I am, after all, an actuary), but also because it explains how each day builds on the next. One small step today makes two steps easier tomorrow. Whatever your focus, peck away at it each day with just a tweak here and there, and 365 days later, you could both act and feel differently. 

Whenever you find time to take a pause to think about how you can up your game in 2023, consider including some aspect of your character. It is who we are, more than what we do, that ultimately shapes our success, and more importantly, our sense of success. 

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