Rather than forgoing the New Year’s resolution practice altogether, I encourage you to enter into a version of self-inquiry that will lead you to making resolution(s) that will work for you so that you feel like you are making progress in the year to come.
Here are seven steps to making the New Year’s resolution process work for you:
1. Think about how you want to feel. Most of the time we make resolutions based on what we think we “should” be doing. Instead, try thinking about how you want to feel, either in one specific area of your life (school, work, activities, relationships, family, health) or your life as a whole.
2. Brainstorm activities that will help you create that experience. Write the activities down as you brainstorm. The best resolutions aren’t end goals; they are actions that you can objectively say you’ve accomplished. Swap out a resolution like “lose weight” for “cook one meal a week.” Swap out “be better informed on current events” with “spend ten minutes reading newspaper articles every day” or “listen to two current events podcasts each week.” Swap “make more friends” with “smile at one classmate a day” or “invite someone to do something fun with me twice a month.”
3. Choose an activity that you are genuinely excited to try. This excitement will make you want to start following through on your resolution. Start simple. Rather than adding twelve different activities that could feasibly improve you life, start with 1-3. Even if you brainstorm ideas in multiple areas of your life, you don’t need to fix everything in January. Making progress in one area can give you more energy to bring to the other areas. What action feels like a natural progression of your life as it already is? How many times a day/week/month do you want to do it? For how long? Do you need to schedule it?
4. Post your resolution somewhere you can see it. Whether you simply write the resolution on a post-it note or make a collage of magazine cut-outs that relate to how you want to feel, creating a visual reminder will hold the resolution in your awareness.
5. Find an accountability system. I love apps like Streaks that enable you to check off when you’ve completed an activity. You can also post a calendar on the wall and place an “X” on days when you’ve completed your action. Cell phone alarms serve as helpful reminders, too.
6. Save your brainstorm…and return to it. As the year goes on, if you find that your approach to creating your desired experience isn’t quite working for you—maybe you’ve become bored, frustrated, or complacent, or maybe it simply doesn’t fit into your life—choose another specific action that might reinvigorate your resolution. Or, if everything is going great, you might decide to advance your progress by adding on a second action to your routine.
7. Schedule check-ins. I would schedule the first one for January 15th (most people have all but forgotten their resolutions by then), and continue your check-ins once or twice a month thereafter. Create calendar alerts so that you don’t forget your check-in. The key to continued progress is ongoing check-ins.
It’s great to have a big picture vision—whether an intention like “power” or a specific goal like “run a 10K”--but it’s through practical action that intentions come to life and goals are realized.
Wishing you an amazing 2018—Let’s make it the best year yet!
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