New Year’s resolutions tend to be intimidating and unrealistic for most people. In fact, research shows that 80 percent of resolutions tend to taper off before the end of February. I don’t know about you, but that number is definitely higher than I thought. The reasons why so many resolutions fall by the wayside can differ, but if you’ve ever heard people talking about their resolutions, you might notice some commonalities.
This time of year, I hear a lot of people talking about how they are going to eat differently, or work out more in the New Year. They might want to finally start doing the activity that they’ve been putting off — all year long. There’s a sense of dragging one’s feet until January 1st rolls around, when it’s then definitely the time to make things happen.
We use New Year’s resolutions as laundry lists of ways to ‘work on’ ourselves. We want to improve, be better — be different — than who we are. While change and challenging yourself is immensely important and valuable, doing so from a place of negativity or lack harms more than it helps.
Instead of planning ahead with resolutions, consider planning your year ahead with intention. With intention, we can be mindful of the things we want to achieve while also making space for self-compassion and an understanding of what really matters to us as individuals instead of what we feel should matter to us at the start of every new year.
Here are some alternative strategies to resolutions that can help you be motivated, excited and full of intention for your best year yet.
The ONE word
Instead of a list of things to achieve, pick one word to guide you throughout the year ahead. Take time to think of what you as a complex, multifaceted person are seeking, or would like to focus on. Once you’ve chosen it, use the one word as a compass that points you in the right direction in every aspect of our life — your health, your relationships, your career, your personal goals and even your daily to do lists.
Create a ritual in which you can look at a week or month ahead and take stock of how your word will be implemented in that given time period. If your word is ‘creativity,’ for example, you can consider how a given week will follow through on your intention and make space for it. Can you attend a new type of workout class, or make a new recipe that week, or skip Netflix that night and find a way to get out of your comfort zone?
Some word ideas to get you started: Comfort. Growth. Lighten. Courage. Joy. Inspire. Reach. Health. Balance. Connect.
More this, less that
Plan for your year ahead with understanding of how you’ve grown and what you’ve learned by making a “more this, less that” list. First, reflect on the past year and take note of what stood out, both the good and bad. Look back on old pictures — the ones that didn’t make it to social media. Scroll through your calendar, emails, or maybe even the notes on your phone. What experiences or thoughts made you happy? Conversely, what was difficult about the past year?
Once you’ve made your observations, make a set of two to three “more this, less that,” phrases to serve as a map for 2019. Some examples might be: “more self care nights, less going out when I don’t want to,” “more time swimming, less time forcing myself to do cardio,” or “more time with the friend that makes me laugh, less time on relationships solely driven by a feeling of obligation.” When you’re presented with engagements or activities in 2019, remember your “more this, less that” list and guide your actions with the map you made for yourself.
Create a bucket list for joy
Instead of creating resolutions of things you ‘should’ do, create a list of the things you’ve always wanted to do and make 2019 the year to do them. They can be big or small things- they just have to make you happy. It can be something as small as learning to bake your favorite muffin, or taking a friend to lunch, or bigger intentions like reading one book a month or taking a class or trip that you’ve always talked about. When writing your list, try not to filter yourself or limit how long it is. Have fun with it! Hand write your bucket list and let yourself feel excited about every single thing you write down.
Put your joy bucket list on your fridge (or somewhere you will see everyday), and set a goal to at least do one activity a week or a month. Your goal is not to cross every item off your list- although, kudos if you do! Instead, simply focus on making joy a practice and consistent presence in your life by crossing items off on a regular basis.
May your 2019 intentions bring you fulfillment and happiness that lasts throughout the year!