New Year’s Resolutions always seem like a neat idea at the time. Until February when you have convinced yourself that you can, in fact, die from pizza deprivation. And once you have that one slice of pizza (or whole pizza…), why even bother with that resolution anyway? All it did was make you think about pizza for 30 straight days. And now I want pizza. ???
The problem with most resolutions, even well thought out ones, is that they are supposed to last for an entire year! Twelve months! Fifty-two weeks! 365 days! Any goal setting, life planning, dream catching guru out there hardly ever thinks past 90 days, with most actionable habits being set at that 30 day mark. Why in the world do we ever think that a 365 day long habit practice is a good idea? It’s too much pressure, it’s too big of a swing from what we’ve been doing, and it’s too rigid.
Don’t get misunderstand, if you are interested in making changes that will last for a full year, I think the New Year is a great place to start! Let’s just rethink the resolution thing. If we want to make a change that will last a whole year, or longer, we are going to have to commit to a mindset shift. We can’t white knuckle our way through a whole year of dieting, exercise, reading, money-saving, or whatever, if we don’t shift the way we think about these goals. Which means the types of goals we set are going to look a little different. I suggest the following criteria for the new New Year’s Resolution:
- All resolutions should be created with success in mind. Maybe it’s a low threshold, to make sure you are successful. Maybe it’s open enough criteria that many different actions count as a success.
- All resolutions should be flexible. A lot can change in a year! Especially if you are trying to change. Make sure your resolution can grow and change with you.
- All resolutions should be low pressure. Try to avoid the “well, I might as well give up” event.
I like the idea of these New Year’s Resolutions as more of a New Year’s Theme. I can use a theme as a sort of mantra for decision making in the New Year. I can make the theme as generic or specific as I want as long as it is not prescribing precise action. My theme can’t be Yoga Everyday or Never Pizza. Once I have a theme determined, then I can create plans of action within that theme.
- Health. If this is simply my underlying mantra for the year, I could still achieve a lot, even with no specific goals. It could mean anything from getting more sleep, to just opting for the side of vegetables. It allows me to try different things to see what works. I could then adopt goals for each month or focus on different aspects of my health at different times. Or, just aim to make healthier decisions when I can.
- Movement. Each month I could decide to try a new type of exercise. Or I could commit to walking more. And if two months in, I don’t want to keep trying new classes, or I get sick and need to shift to simple at-home workouts, I haven’t failed my resolution and I can adapt it to what I need, when I need it.
- Thrift. Going cold turkey on spending habits can be really challenging, but with a theme of thrift, I can change the way I think about myself and the decisions that I make. Instead of isolating myself and never going to Starbucks again, when I do go, I can make a smaller purchase, or only go with a friend or co-worker. If I feel like I need to make a big purchase, a theme of thrift will help me take more time to evaluate the necessity of the purchase and give me time to see if I can solve my problem another way.
Committing to a year of change is a big deal and our brains are not that great at perceiving that long of an amount of time. A theme, employed as a mantra, can help me change the way I think, which makes it easier to make the decisions I want to make.
Now, if you are feeling uninspired, unmotivated, or feel like this approach is too passive you could start January with a challenge! A challenge is a great opportunity to push yourself to make quick change and get results to keep you motivated for the rest of the year. You could do a Whole30, put the kabash on coffee purchases for month, walk one mile every day, commit to 3 days a week at the gym, cut out sugar for 21 days, commit to texting a family member or friend every Monday and Thursday, read a book a week, or meditate for 3 minutes. It doesn’t even have to be a whole month! Even two weeks can help you make a big change and launch you into better habits.
If you are are onboard with this Theme idea, but aren’t sure where to start or want some ideas to get you going, I’ve got some ready to go. It seems like most people are trying to improve their Body, Mind, Spirit, or Relationships. Which are great themes in and of themselves! But if you want to get more specific, or hit multiple areas with one theme, I’ve broken down a few more:
- Relationship with your Body
- Professional Development
- Current events
- Philosophical exploration
- Spouse/Significant Other
- Personal (with yourself!)
Remember, once you have a theme, you can still set additional goals, make plans of action, and further define how you are going to live up to that theme this year. Or you can just keep it as a mantra.
And of course, when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions you are welcome to say, “Screw it! I’m awesome! (which you totally are) I’ll do what I want, when I want, and forget this whole New Year’s business!”
I’d like to hear from you. What New Year’s Resolutions plans do you already have? What’s your theme or themes for this next year of your life? How are you hoping to grow and change over the next 365 days?