I used to set New Year’s resolutions every year without fail. And, every year without fail, I’d forget all about them by February, maybe March. Despite my track record (and the fact it never occurred to me to change my approach), I’d start off each year sure this was the year. I would arrive at 1st January bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and optimistic that certain aspects of my life were about to change for the better.
Like younger me, you’ve probably experienced New Year’s resolutions don’t usually work in the way we hope they will. There are good reasons for this, so rather than try to stick to a tradition that doesn’t serve me, the last few years I’ve experimented with various replacements. This week, I want to share what I’m doing this year instead of going through the self-defeating cycle of making and breaking promises to myself.
1. Experimenting with 30-day challenges
I started doing this in 2016 with a 30-day drawing, illustrating and lettering challenge. I found that, while I tend to overestimate what I can achieve in a day, I also tend to underestimate how much I can achieve (and improve) in a month.
This year, I’ve made a list of new 30-day challenges I’d like to try. These range from yoga, to writing poetry, to doing a Whole30 and more. 30 days isn’t so long the commitment becomes unsustainable but it’s long enough to make a difference. I won’t get through my whole challenge list this year, but I’m looking forward to gently stretching myself with a select few.
2. Writing a letter to my future self
This is one of my favourite journaling exercises (and something I write more about in The Ultimate Guide to Journaling). There are a couple of ways you can do this. Plain old pen and paper will suffice but you can also use technology to help. Futureme.org allows you to send emails to yourself in the future, or you can use a simple programme like Boomerang for Gmail to bounce the message back to your inbox on a particular date.
Whatever method you use, I find it useful to write my future self a letter with my hopes and dreams for the year. Not only does this help me clarify what I’d like to do and experience during the next 365 days, but it’s illuminating to look back on the letter at the end of the year and see how the year in my imagination compared with the year that actually was.
You can learn more about this journaling technique, along with 30+ other techniques and prompts in The Ultimate Guide to Journaling.
3. Revisiting the Wheel of Life
This is an eye-opening exercise to do at the beginning of the year. Rather than plucking goals or resolutions out of thin air, it gives me a birds-eye view of how each area of my life is going at this moment in time. This helps me identify which areas are going well, which need a little more TLC, and what needs to happen to step closer to my ideal vision for that part of my life.
I’ve created a workbook based on this exercise called Say Hello to Your Future Self, which is available for free in the Becoming Who You Are Library. You can get it here.
4. Focusing on how I want to feel and creating my to-do list from there
This concept comes from Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map. The idea is simple, but quietly life-changing. Rather than setting goals based on what we want to achieve, start by identifying how we want to feel and work outwards from there.
This has two important results: if a particular goal doesn’t fit with a core desired feeling, we have permission to shelve it. Equally, we open ourselves up to new and previously unconsidered goals that could be far more fulfilling and life-enriching than we’d anticipated.
The core concept of The Desire Map is one of those lightbulb moments that has changed the way I approach goals in every area of my life. Find out more about the book by clicking the link to the left. Danielle also sells Desire Map journals, audios and other related resources on her website.
5. Revising my “when life works” list
This is one of my favourite coaching exercises, so I’m happy to see it’s also one of the most popular Becoming Who You Are Podcast episodes. A “when life works” list is a collection of activities and rituals that help us feel like the best version of ourselves. Each list is personal but, when I’ve done this exercise with coaching clients, common items include spending time in nature, journaling, and exercising.
As humans, we are always evolving and changing, so what keeps us afloat will evolve and change too. Like the Wheel of Life exercise, the beginning of the year is the perfect time to revisit and revise this list to give ourselves the best chance of thriving in the new year.
Find out more about creating your list and get a free worksheet to help here.
6. Remembering it’s all arbitrary anyway…
As much as I love the festive season, I also like to remind myself that the new year isn’t the be all and end all. In fact, it’s a made-up holiday dedicated to Janus, the god of gateways and new beginnings (before the month of January existed, new year was originally in March). This means if the first few days of this year (and your new year’s resolutions) haven’t been amazing so far, it doesn’t matter. You have permission to begin your new year whenever you please.
The reality of life is we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) wait for some arbitrary time—for January, for the first day of the month, for next week or even for tomorrow—to start something that really matters to us. It’s how we show up every day that counts.
What do you do instead of new year’s resolutions? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
Image: Shelby Courtney