Make more than a resolution this year — make a list

At the start of a new year we tend to feel optimistic. We revel in the freedom of turning a new page, the thought that we can write a new story, set a new path for ourselves, and achieve new things. This is good. Resolutions are good. They are goals that we set for ourselves. Some are more well thought out than others, yet any positive goal has the means to move us closer to what we are truly seeking, happiness.

Yes, sometimes we fail at achieving what we set out to do. Yet, you would feel less frustrated if you perceived failure as an opportunity, an opportunity to ask yourself, what went wrong? How could I do this differently? Then, if it is a worthy goal, go at it again. Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying.

Dreams, goals, lists are an important part of a quality life. New Year’s resolutions are goals. What we seek, to lose weight, exercise more, make new friends, find a new job, write the great American novel, is a means to an end.

Truly the end goal in all of it is to feel good about ourselves and obtain happiness, a sense of well-being. And, setting goals, making lists, achieving that which we set out to do is a time tested path to happiness. Success, by itself, is one of the most powerful predictors of happiness out there. I am not talking about monetary success, or winning in and of its self. I am talking about the success of realizing a goal.


Current research in psychology tells us that the connection between happiness and success is so profound that it would probably be more effective to measure a country’s wealth in Gross National Happiness than in Gross National Product (Seligman, 2011). The confluence of over 50 years of such research in areas of depression, learned helplessness and subjective well-being have led to a paradigm shift in how we think about the psychology of the individual as well as the true wealth of a community, nation or people.

It is becoming much more fruitful for us to study that which leads to happiness or a good quality of life, than to study that which leads to depression. The fruits of focusing on the positive psychology of the human condition have yielded resources and tools that can empower the individual and potentially lead them to success and a flourishing life.

So, what to do? Make more than a resolution. Make a list. Literally write down your goals, desires and dreams. The relationship between lists, success and well-being is a strong one. People who make lists are more likely to be successful and successful people are more likely to report satisfaction with life.

Sound too simple? In a way it is. Lists are a way of setting goals; goals initiate action and set up the potential for success. No list, no goal, no success. One could think of New Year’s resolutions as our national time for list making or group goal setting. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all took it very seriously? It is in such a way that we can initiate the action that may bring us success in the new year and years to come.


There is nothing really new about the notion of lists, goals and success. Some of the more famous, successful and influential people of history were list makers. Leonardo DaVinci is a well-known example. DaVinci was known for his notebooks in which he made lists of his ideas, his thoughts and questions, solutions to problems, and where he envisioned his dreams.

Great athletes and coaches like Michael Phelps, Eric Mangini and Lou Holtz set life goals and made lists (Miller, 2009). A list is a tool by which we train an unruly mind to pay attention and focus on that which we choose is of import.

So, I say to you. Grab a piece of paper, a notebook, a journal, anything and start. Make that list. Include your New Year’s resolution if you want and other things you would like to achieve. Ask yourself, what do I want to do before I die? And then start writing. Start with your top 10 burning desires. Make your bucket list. Then when you get done, keep going. And, when it gets hard, dig deeper. Without goals, without dreams, without a list, you will never get where you want to go.

Reprint of an article published in 2013 in the Chester Progressive