Supporting New Year Resolutions

It’s fashionable these days to be cynical about New Year resolutions, dismissing them as laughable, empty wishes to lose weight or finally get organised. But the beginning of a year is a great time to be hopeful and plan for personal growth! Mentoring sessions at the beginning of a calendar year usually have a ‘fresh start’ feel to them. It’s like we finish one chapter, start a new one and have a renewed sense of possibility and expectation. 

Mentors have a part to play in helping mentorees effectively engage in this process of looking forward with positive intent. If that’s your role and you have a mentoring session coming up this month, what can you bring to the table? I’m going to assume that you have already listened very carefully to ensure you’ve understood the resolutions your mentoree wants to pursue, and that you’re not making assumptions or injecting your own ideas about what you think they ‘ought’ to be going after. Here are five areas for exploration around proposed resolutions.

  1. Check for overreach. Is the mentoree attempting something too challenging, trying to run before they can walk? Ask if there might be an intermediate resolution that could form a great launchpad for tackling the ‘Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal’ a little way down the track. Or are they attempting too many things all at once? It can be good to have two or three resolutions, but having ten is probably going to turn out to be overwhelming. Ask if they can prioritise a long list to settle on the top few.
  2. Advocate for balance. What are the proposed resolutions attempting to achieve? Fix a problem? Nurture a strength? Explore a possibility? These are all good categories and a balance between them is ideal. If all of a person’s proposed resolutions are in one category, ask questions that stimulate thought about the other categories.
  3. Encourage personhood over performance. Are the resolutions about what the person wants to achieve or the sort of person they wish to become? Overuse of the SMART methodology (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) for goal-setting will skew things towards performance achievement. Getting something important done has its place but, as a mentor, your higher concern is going to be the personal growth of the person. Use methods that get at ‘who you are’.
  4. Clarify a simple plan of attack. Many good intentions fail for lack of a plan. It doesn’t need to be complicated – in fact, it shouldn’t be. This is where ‘how?’ questions come into their own. Explore both positive and negative factors. Any move from ‘here’ to ‘there’ is going to require resources and must consider possible obstacles. What does your mentoree already have going for them? What additional help will they need to secure? What might undermine their intent and what can they do to guard against that? Kurt Lewin’s ‘Force Field Analysis’ is a useful tool here. (See my blog, 4 November 2021.)
  5. Build in evaluation points. If it’s worth spending time to clarify and hone a resolution then it’s essential it’s not forgotten. Ask your mentoree if it’s okay for you, as mentor, to check in on how things are going with the things they have resolved to pursue. When would they like you to do that? Multiple check-in points are helpful – perhaps one month, three months, and six months. Evaluation is more accurate if external perspectives are included rather than it just being a matter of the mentoree’s own impressions. Suggest they seek feedback from people close to them. Evaluation points are also an opportunity to fine tune resolutions to take account of things learned since they were formed.

As a Christian mentor, I’m going to approach each of these areas of exploration with God at the centre. I’m going to encourage this process to be prayerful, sensitive to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. I’m going to ask questions that refer back to my mentoree’s sense of their calling as a disciple of Jesus. I’m going to probe for how any proposed resolution might open a pathway for the kingdom of God to be more fully expressed in my mentoree’s life. I’m going to stir up faith and hope in the One who holds our future in His hands.

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