Self Care

5 Ways to Mentally Prepare For The Year Ahead

A little prep work goes a long way.

By: Dominique Michelle Astorino

Year after year, studies reveal statistics concerning New Year’s Eve resolutions — that the majority fail within the first few weeks. However, in understanding why goals don’t stick, there’s an often-overlooked aspect of goal setting: preparing for the year ahead. While seemingly small, taking the time to envision your dreams, reflect on your past successes and shortcomings, and acknowledge your journey is a significant step that helps set you up for success in the year ahead. And we’re breaking down exactly how to prepare for the new year with actionable steps that will help you navigate January with confidence, ease, and momentum. Read on for all you need to know!

RELATED: 20 Resolutions to Make 2024 Your Happiest Year Ever

5 Steps to Mentally Prepare For The Year Ahead 

#1 Let Go of The Past Year

Whether you’ve had a stellar year or you’ve hit so many bumps you’re feeling deflated and defeated, it’s important to take a moment to honor the year past and then release it in preparation for the coming months. 

Certified confidence and mindset coach Jenny Gaither, founder of Brave Babe coaching and Mind Your Confidence Podcast, creates programs focused on preparing for a new year of goals — so she’s an expert in this exact field. 

“In general, I’ve noticed a theme where what used to work for people doesn’t work as well or doesn’t work at all anymore,” says Gaither. “Your self-care routines, workouts, work schedules (not being able to handle as much), career paths, spending money, parenting styles, friendships, relationships, what we do for joy — literally anything and everything — might be up for a refresh in the new year. This is the perfect time to take inventory.”  

Licensed therapist Rachel Wright, LMFT, agrees with this method wholeheartedly. “Take some time to reflect on your past year and see what worked really well, celebrations and accomplishments you had, etc., and then what didn’t work so well, what was hard, or where you fell short,” she says.

This is a crucial step in building self-trust, which can propel us to reach new heights in the next year. “In order to build that inner trust and feel connected to a path that’s right for you, it’s important to check in on what’s still aligned and what isn’t,” she says. “Using the new year as a catalyst for this — to revisit what is working and what isn’t (and why) — is a powerful exercise to be more open-minded and live in ways you didn’t know you could.”

“We outgrow things. Period. It doesn’t need to be as dramatic as we make it,” Gaither says. “In fact, the pain and discomfort most of the time comes from the dramatics we play into combined with a lack of trust that we’ll be okay.” 

#2 Honor Your Growth 

After that reflection and releasing, it’s then important to acknowledge your growth (and get excited for the growth to come). 

“We can often internalize those aforementioned growth moments — where things that used to work aren’t working anymore — as a ‘Me problem’ or thing ‘Something must be wrong with me,” instead of seeing it as growth,” says Gaither. Her advice? Cut that out. “When we can think of these moments as growth, it feels so much more positive; it’s healthier and easier on our mind and soul, thus fueling positive action toward whatever we are growing into.” Perfect prep for 2024, right? 

#3 Dream Big

One of the best pieces of advice we could give you is to not poke holes in your dreams; don’t naysay your goals or put limits on what you want to achieve. Does this sound like an inspirational cat poster? Sure. Is it a little cheesy? Absolutely. But it’s important. The more you shoot yourself down before you start, the harder time you’ll have going after what you want. And when we’re so focused on mindset — literally, mentally preparing for a new year — this is everything. 

#4 Break it Down

Break down your goals. Make big goals and small goals, and write steps on how to get there. What would a ‘good’ week look like for you if you were totally on track to achieve what you wanted to achieve, or simply live the way you want to live? Make it bite-sized, digestible, feasible, and attainable. 

“See if there are any throughlines or common things [from your evaluations in step 1] and make those your goals — then try your best not to put them all as new year’s resolutions, rather overall goals for the whole year,” says Wright. “Be realistic about the plan of action.”

This begins with envisioning what you want your next year to look and feel like. Break it down, and imagine your ideal day, week, and month. Then, think about your 3,6, and 12 month goals — how do you want to move through the next year? Speaking of…

#5 Try Journaling

Gaither shared some of her journal prompts she gives to clients for starting the next year. “These can help you pave a clearer roadmap of where you want to invest your energy and where you might want to pull back moving forward,” she tells FitOn. “They are meant to be recycled! Revisit them once a month.”

  • What’s a fountain? What’s a drain? (What’s adding to your life, what’s taking away)
  • What serves your life? What doesn’t? (And why?)
  • What makes you feel the most like yourself? Do more of it.
  • What makes you feel worse about yourself? Do less of it. 

Once you’ve completed the journaling, there’s another half to the equation. “The second part of this exercise,” she says, “Includes learning to listen to your intuition — the voice of love and respect — versus your mind, which is a mini computer that’s programmed for survival, not for making the most of your current reality and fulfilling your dreams.”

“If we give ourselves one moment each day to get quiet and hear our intuition and listen to it (i.e., believe what it tells you), we will be guided and fueled by what really matters,” says Gaither. “We can see what’s important and fulfilling versus continually focusing on checking off to-do lists and hustling for achievement.”

Take Care of Yourself As You Prep For 2024

All these steps help you refocus and shift your mindset toward something healthy and positive — thus better allowing you to take care of your emotional and mental well-being. And remember, while it’s wonderful to start the year off on the right foot, life happens. Come back to these tools as often as you need (monthly, weekly, heck… even daily!) so you can recalibrate. We all need resets now and then, and these are reliable mindset tools to defer to whenever necessary.