By Sarah Stanley

Welcome to 2016, friends - a brand new year, ripe with opportunities for growth and inspiration. 

Each year, January 1st brings resolutions and plans for how we can be the best versions of ourselves. Yet, for so many of us, those goals and our connection to them last about as long as the winning streak of a Cleveland sports team - true, some team's seasons last longer than others, but it's pretty rare that we finish strong. And every year we make a note of how and why last year's resolution didn't last - it was an "off-season," but this year is going to be our year. 

And maybe it is.  

Maybe this is the year that you are going to deepen your relationship with God through scheduled daily prayer. Maybe this is the year you are going to learn to swim so you can complete that triathlon you've had your sights set on for so long. Maybe this is the year you will finally organize those spaces in your home that need a little TLC -- here's lookin' at you, hall closet. 

This could be the year. But let's be real for a minute. 

If we enter into these challenges with the same methods and tools as years past where our goals were left unfinished, not much is going to change. We'll start strong with the excitement of new possibilities and begin to fade as our typical routines sink back in and become more comfortable. And then come next January we will be right. back. here. 

It's a pretty annoying cycle, right? So let's break it!

This year, I challenge you to take a look at the goals you've already set or plan to set (it's never too late to start) and evaluate/strengthen them in 3 ways:

1.) Be SMART.

Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time sensitive. 

If your goal is to pray more this year, wonderful! That's a great goal! But try to kick it up a notch by specifying how you will do so and for how long. Are you going to journal every day? Will you attend daily mass 3 times a week? Setting parameters on your goal will not only help you measure the progress of your goal, but it will also help you set a goal that is doable which can prevent you from getting overwhelmed and giving up all together.  

2.) Have a buddy.

Tell someone about what you are trying to accomplish and ask them to help hold you accountable. Find a friend who will check in with you a few times a week and ask how it's going and offer to do the same for them. We all have goals that we want to see happen, and simply telling someone else about your plans makes them more official and pushes you to strive even more for them. 

3.) Have compassion with yourself and don't give up! 

If you miss a day of your challenge, don't beat yourself up over it and certainly don't throw the goal out the window. Take a moment to reevaluate your goal and reflect on why you slipped.  

Did you just forget? No biggie, we're all human. Try again. Maybe make a list of ways to help you remember so you don't forget. 

Are you realizing your goal wasn't as attainable as you thought? Ok, how can you recraft it to be more realistic and keep it challenging? Maybe instead of an hour of prayer each day you decide to try 20 minutes. Perhaps instead of running that half-marathon you registered for walk this one, or run a shorter race and schedule another half later in the year so you have more time to train.

Did you lose track of time and forget to make a resolution for 2016? Been there. Set one now! It's never to late to start and I promise no one but you will know or care that your didn't begin until after the 1st. 

Remember, the point of a New Year's Resolution isn't to have the biggest or flashiest goal. It's meant to challenge you to intentionally strive to live more fully and become a better version of yourself. 

This year I plan to will prayerfully journal everyday, spend at least 5 hours each week this semester preparing for comprehensive exams, and run my first full marathon.

Not gonna lie, my goals seem a lot more real/terrifying/exciting now that I'm sharing them with you all. Oh well. Cheers to you, 2016. Here we go!

How will you challenge yourself to become more fully alive this year?