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3 Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! As we head into another intrepid 365-day voyage, let’s pause for a moment to look at the recurring issue of resolutions.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I don’t do resolutions. They’ve never worked for me and I’ve found that if I really want to do something, I’ll start it now rather than waiting until January 1st. One of the reasons resolutions are so popular, however, is that the start of a new year is the perfect time to evaluate the previous 12 months and plan for the next.

Instead of resolutions, I use three steps to set myself up for a new year. These are:

  • Question
  • Simplify
  • Dare

Question:

Questioning is the first part of the process. It involves evaluating the year gone by and envisioning what I want for the next 12 months. To start, I write a review of the year just finished. This can take several forms:

  • What went well and what didn’t go so well (my favourite until now)
  • Stream-of-consciousness reflections on the year
  • Significant events and milestones month by month
  • An update on any goals set at the end of the previous year
  • An exploration of the different areas of your life using the wheel of life

In addition to this review, I also ask myself questions like:

Who do I want to be in 2014?
How do I want to feel in 2014?
In what areas of your life do I want to grow in 2014?

Asking myself these questions first helps me stay grounded and focus on my relationship with myself, rather than how I show up in my external world.

Simplify:

Simplification is one of the most important processes for the new year, yet often it’s completely ignored and this is a reason why most resolutions fail. Our daily cup overfloweth with commitments, deadlines, shoulds, and demands as it is. If we try to add new habits, extra commitments, or additional activities to our week without making mental and physical space for them, we’re setting ourselves up to fail.

So even though we’re not talking about making resolutions here, we’re still going to remove unnecessary crap from our lives, because it’s good for us. Here are a few ways I do this:

  • I unsubscribe from any emails that I don’t read or that don’t resonate with me anymore (If I like someone’s blog but I’m struggling to keep up with their emails, I’ll add them to a feed reader service like Newsblur)
  • I organise my personal projects. I use David Allen’s Getting Things Done productivity system to keep track of my life, and I highly recommend you do the same if you like to stay on top of your personal and work projects, make sure you pay bills on time, jot down ideas and plans for the future, etc. I use an app called Doit.im to keep track of what I’m working on and do a massive review and, if necessary, re-organisation at the end of each year.
  • I review my finances and cancel any memberships, direct debits, or standing orders that I’m no longer using or that no longer serve me. Paying for the gym is not the same as going. You’ll feel much better if you accept that you’re not using that gym membership and cancel it rather than promise yourself that you’ll go, then beat yourself up for not following through.
  • I get rid of “piles” that have been bugging me. This might mean de-cluttering my desktop, re-organising my computer folders, clearing the mound of physical post that has been growing for the past several months, and other tasks that help clear my physical and digital spaces.

 

Dare:

Now that we’ve done a review, questioned what we want, and simplified our spaces, it’s time to dare. Although I don’t do resolutions, I do create four or five Big Hairy Audacious Goals. The idea of a BHAG is that it’s challenging but doable, and gets you closer to your ideal life.

This year, my BHAGs include running a half-marathon, selling 2000 books, joining forces with someone(s) in an awesome project collaboration, and getting features published on at least two big magazine sites. None of these count as resolutions, but they still encourage healthy habits and growth in the areas of my life I want to focus on this year.

When you dare, you might hear a little voice pop up that says “you can’t do that because [insert convincing reason here].” When working out my goals, I heart this voice say that I couldn’t run a half-marathon because my knee isn’t totally recovered from an injury a couple of months ago. Ditto for getting features published on at least two magazine sites. That voice popped up saying “Your site isn’t big enough yet! No one is going to publish your stuff”. While both these objections might turn out to be true, the only way I’m going to find out is if I test them.

We all have voices that want to keep us small and safe. They develop for our protection but they don’t serve our growth. (tweet this)

Because these voices are on our side (even though it doesn’t always feel that way!) the aim is not to get rid of them. Instead it’s to question them and ask ourselves “Is that really true?” Quite often, the answer is “I don’t actually know,” and from that place of not knowing, we’re in a much better position to prepare, plan, then move forward to find out.

Useful Resolution-Free Resources

I’ve used Leonie Dawson’s Create Your Amazing Year planners for the last three years. While they’re probably more suited to the lady readers who don’t mind a little woo here and there, they’re useful for processing the last 12 months and looking ahead to the next.

I just discovered these MiGoals diaries and they look awesome. I can’t wait to try one of these when I get back to the UK.

Ditto with these Erin Condren life planners ’cause, after all, you can’t have too many notebooks, right?

Do you want to question, simplify, and dare during 2014? I have a few spots open to coach you. Email hannah [at] becomingwhoyouare [dot] net for more info and to arrange a no-obligation chat to see whether coaching is right for you.

Photo Credit: Luz Adriana Villa A. via Compfight cc

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