A New Year; Is It Time For Meaningful Changes?

We all do it, assess where we are each year and vow to improve in the coming one.  Many of us are probably having the conversation with ourselves right now. We might even be thinking about how to improve our relationships, and maybe we are thinking of how we can be a better partner to our mate. Whatever you may be considering, let’s look at the changes differently this year. Why not make 2011 your breakout year, and your best yet?

I’m talking about making meaningful changes. I want to tell you about an old friend. His name is Bill Clark and he made significant changes for himself yearly, and he started it off with a ritual. Bill took stock of his life every New Years day. He would begin the year with an early morning run. It would always be a number of miles somewhere around ten, more than he usually ran during the year. He would tell me about doing this before the day arrived, as if to make sure he would really do it. And he always did.

Now when I think about making changes, or as a couples counselor helping other people make changes, I am reminded of Bill and I’m glad. He reminds me to value a tradition, doing something with vigor because it’s important. Beginning again, no matter how big or small deserves to be celebrated. We all deserve to be celebrated. That’s what I get from Bill’s devotion to new beginnings. He would challenge himself with a physical act, but what he was giving himself was the gift of new beginnings.

For Bill, accomplishing a big endeavor was just what he needed. This was his wakeup call and a reminder to him that he had the ability to change his life. He did it with a big reminder. The rest of us can do it by just telling ourselves we want to.

You may not be a runner, and even though I put in a few miles ever week there is no way I will be running ten miles, but I may do something else. I may decide to make a statement in another way. I might make a vow to myself, and I may tell others. It could go something like this, “I plan to have a year of being more loving to_______.”  There’s something significant about saying something like this to ourselves. There is also value is saying it to others.

Maybe your relationships aren’t as great as you would like them to be. Maybe you dream of being in a more nurturing relationship with your spouse. Why not take it upon yourself and do something different for 2011. You have the power to change you. You have the ability to decide you want to treat your partner differently. You can create the environment you wish to live in. Yes, you.

Maybe your partner loves it when you make them coffee in the morning, or wash the dishes. Tell yourself this is the year I will pick something that pleases her and do it for her. Do this because it will make your partner feel good. Do this and I promise you, you will feel good too.

New Years resolutions can be difficult. Some of us have tried for years to; lose weight, get into shape, stay in touch with friends, travel, save money etc. There are lots of ways we think we can do better. I like to think of this time of year as a fresh start. Your new beginning and you can make it anything you want. It’s like we all get to begin again, if we want to. And who doesn’t want a clean slate?

If you are in a relationship with complex issues that keep you from feeling connected, just pick one thing that you can do to make something between you easier. Don’t try and fix the whole lot, that’s too much work and might require the assistance of a counselor. But you can decide not to call her that name, the one she hates, the one that makes her mad. You can decide not to use it and try to keep from using it for all of 2011. Make it a goal. Maybe it could be something like making his favorite food, on a regular basis, not because he deserves it or was nice, but because you decide this will be something you can do. He will love you in the instant you do this. You will feel good. Resign yourself to do this without prompting because it is your change for 2011.

You know your particulars in your relationship better than anyone. Look at what you can do to make your partner happy. Find one thing. Decide it will be your one thing for 2011.  Begin again, fresh start, new life; it’s all there for us. Just step into it.

© Copyright 2010 by Linda Nusbaum, MA, MFT, therapist in Long Beach, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Robyn


    December 28th, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    What about simply using this time as a time to refocus and make a renewed commitment to yourself and to your family? Sometimes resolutions fall by the wayside because they start to feel like they are unattainable. But if you just say to yourself that this is the time to focus on you and improving your life then it allows for those small steps that make success feel that much closer and possible.

  • Patty


    December 28th, 2010 at 6:41 PM

    “Beginning again, no matter how big or small deserves to be celebrated. We all deserve to be celebrated. ” Amen to that, Linda! New Year resolutions always make me feel like I’m setting myself up for failure. I think I make them too big and complicated. This year I’ll think small steps instead and celebrate each one as I go.

  • Helen K.

    Helen K.

    December 28th, 2010 at 9:06 PM

    I hate New Year. I’m in a rotten relationship and have been for sixteen years. I look at him and think how another twelve months of my life just went down the drain. It’s pathetic that I stay to avoid the other choice of being alone. When you get to my age, it’s too late to start dating again. Who wants a woman of nearly sixty? New Year rubs in there’s another twelve months ahead of me.

  • Rogers


    December 28th, 2010 at 10:23 PM

    @Helen:You could do better with a more positive outlook in my opinion. There is no much you can get ahead with that kind of an attitude,Helen. You need to try and make your relationship better. You will need to put in effort and so does your partner.

  • eric s

    eric s

    December 29th, 2010 at 4:29 AM

    isn’t this close to what most people already do,new year resolutions? those don’t get me anywhere and I am not sure about this technique’s effectiveness.

  • Stacy L

    Stacy L

    December 29th, 2010 at 5:51 AM

    Making a meaningful change in your life is one thing. But relying on the new year to help you reslove to get healthy or lose weight or whatever is probably the wong strategy. Just because the calendar changes over to a new year does not necessarily mean that you have a clean slate. It is all about making the right changes in your life that will help you to make these things happens and just vowing to do something is not the right idea. Usually this kind of thinking is only going to set you up for failure. You have to be willing to go the extra mile and change your life for the better before the other pieces are generally going to fall into place.

  • Marilyn


    December 29th, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    I begin every New Year brimming with optimism, no matter what shape my life is in. Why not? Number one, I’m alive! And that means I can achieve things if I truly want to. It’s too easy to forget the simplest of blessings like waking up!

  • Wanderer


    December 29th, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential. – Ellen Goodman

  • Linda Nusbaum

    Linda Nusbaum

    December 30th, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    Bravo Robin and Patty,
    Spending time focusing on self is an excellent way to begin the year. I’m also all for celebrating ourselves; why not!

  • Linda Nusbaum

    Linda Nusbaum

    December 30th, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    I hear your sadness regarding your marriage. Do one good thing for yourself. Do it because you deserve to treat yourself well. Good luck.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    Linda Nusbaum

    December 30th, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    You have excellent advice. Finding a way to see the good always helps.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    Linda Nusbaum

    December 30th, 2010 at 11:17 AM

    I get what you are saying about past resolutions. The old ones didn’t work. Why not commit to yourself to make this year different? Just a thought.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    Linda Nusbaum

    December 30th, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    You have good instincts. Making small concrete steps to create a better life is a great way to proceed.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    Linda Nusbaum

    December 30th, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    Way to stay present Marilyn. Here’s to you in 2011 for a stellar year.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    Linda Nusbaum

    December 30th, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    Beautiful thought Ellen, “walk through the rooms of our lives, not looking for flaws but for potential”. What a lovely phrase.

  • Ronald


    January 2nd, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    My goals is to just have somebody to love. I’m not asking for much, am I? I have no laundry list of wants. This year I’m keeping it very very simple. That will be my one thing for 2011.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    Linda Nusbaum

    January 3rd, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Hello Ronald,
    Way to look ahead. Good luck to you.

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