Why I don't use new year's resolutions (and what I do instead)

The new year. Whether you're waiting for it, just stepped into it, or are thinking about it from either side, it's often a time of excitement and pressure. Don't get me wrong, I love the start of something new, the idea that what's before us is in our control, that new things, better things, are on their way.

But there's also a lot of pressure we put onto ourselves with each new year. We expect ourselves to be different suddenly, give ourselves lofty goals and expectations, and then can feel disappointed, deflated, and overwhelmed when they don't become a priority or things get in the way.

One of the main reasons for this is that we automatically assume that our future self will be way more productive, insightful, and aligned with who we want to be. I talk about ways to effectively speak to your future self and create the changes you need in your life now here.

So why am I so against new year's resolutions? It's not that I'm against setting goals and getting clear on what you want for the next chapter, I am however, against stating a new year's resolution and then never diving any deeper.

For years I would tell myself that THIS would be the year I would lose 20lbs / get a raise / stop putting up with toxic situations, etc. But what REALLY helped me reach goals was setting up my intentions, getting clear on how I wanted to FEEL, and then making a work back calendar/plan for actually making those things happen.

Let's break down some common differences between standard new year's resolutions and setting up how you actually want to feel.

New Year's Resolutions

No matter how you slice it, there are some things that typically happen when we make a new year's resolution.

They come from a place of guilt and/or resentment (something I talk more about here)

New Year's Resolutions often conjure up thoughts of what we failed at the past year. We didn't do xyz enough, we let ourselves down, we have to change or we'll fail once again. While sure, some people, yourself included, have probably made good on some NYRs from time to time, but I can almost bet that when December rolls around, you're almost dreading the overwhelm you'll face from yourself in the new year.

They focus on the end goal and skip the day-to-day

"This year I'm going to lose 30lbs!"
"This year I'm going to finally quit my job and move to Spain."
"This year I am going to say yes to more things!"

That last one sounded at least a little more specific. We conjure up big goals, we dream and reach for the sky, and that's not a bad thing but we also set ourselves up for some heavy disappointments when suddenly it's been months and nothing has changed.

Giant goals are great and I encourage them but not without some strategy and solid action steps. You can't get "back into shape" if you don't schedule time to exercise. And it's a lot harder to make that vacation a reality if you don't figure out how much money you need, along with where and when you need to check things off along the way.

The game-changer

So what do I suggest instead?

Take time to reflect on the past year

There's this big belief that we always have to charge forward and never look back but if history books and courses can teach us anything, it's that reflecting on the past matters and has it's purpose. There's a big difference between reflection and staying in the past and never moving forward.

Once you've taken some time to reflect on what served you well, what sucked (so you can acknowledge it, let it go, and move on), what was fantastic, and what you want more of, THEN you are ready to move forward.

Choose a word or theme for the year ahead

The next step involves finding the theme of the next chapter of your life. Some people do this by choosing a word for the year, which is something I love but don't feel like a word has to limit you. You can always create sub-words and words within your main word for each month. The big shift in choosing a word means you're focusing on intention and the process as much as the end goal. This can open up a realm of new possibilities like giving yourself permission to work on creative projects that bring you joy within the process rather than only doing things you know will yield an outcome or specific purpose.

For 2017 my word is STRUCTURE. I even made an image to remind me of it and outlined what it means for me:

 

Structure will surround:
:: My daily routine
:: My journaling, meditation, and creative practices
:: How I view time and hold space for myself
:: How I facilitate self-growth, awareness, and reflection
:: How I go about vetting ideas for my business
:: Setting up templates and checklists for big projects
:: Making exercise and movement a priority by structuring and scheduling it into my day
:: Getting real with my eating habits and meal prep. Finding structured ways to layout my meals and plan ahead
:: How I incorporate ritual and routine into my daily life

Structure feels like I'm finally building a mental home around my mind so that I can feel collected, safe, cozy, and assured.

As you can see, a simple word can really be life-changing and can greatly impact your daily life. After all, that's where the magic happens.

When you're clear on how you want to feel and what you want the theme of your life to look like for the next year or so, then it's a LOT easier to incorporate daily changes to your life.

For example, knowing that STRUCTURE is my word, I'm a lot more aware of how often I tend to mindlessly browse Facebook, read random articles, or jump around with projects instead of focusing. Every day when I look at my word, it infuses it's power into my mind and reminds me of why I want to change. It's the main reason I started using a Facebook Newsfeed Blocker Chrome Extension (so much time saved, by the way).

I also know that because I want more structure in my life, it means that many of the things I do each day have to be based in priority-land instead of never-stable-often-fleeting motivation land. What I mean is, I have a time set on my calendar now to go to the gym, whether I really want to or not. Because motivation alone hasn't been my friend the past year.

The big take-away

Do what works best for you when you consider making your goals for the new year. And don't think that just because it's weeks into January, February, or March, or ANY month for that matter that you can't start from where you are now, in the present moment. Monday's aren't any more magical than Thursdays. You have the power to change your life right this moment. Give yourself permission to seek and consider alternatives as well.

Other steps and alternatives

  • Focus on what you're already grateful for
  • Make a commitment to serve something or someone else. What causes are you passionate about? Maybe the new year will be able stepping into a new role as a volunteer, being more available for friends, or making weekly gatherings a priority.
  • Make a list of the 12 things you want to do this year and assign one to each month
  • Choose to take the year off and instead of lofty goals, seek cozy goals like new experiences, more time at home, etc.