Throw out your new year’s resolutions and try this instead
There’s something about a new year. The old year is ending and the symbolism of winter reminds us that old things are done away. As a fresh new year approaches, it is a natural tendency to think of all the things we’re going to do better. We set new year’s resolutions, determined that this year we are going to stick with them … for real this time!
“I’m finally going to lose these 20 pounds.”
“I’ve got to get rid of all this junk once and for all.”
“I plan to start working out five times a week!”
My son works at gym. For the first two months of a new year, they schedule more employees in anticipation of an influx of member participation, but as February turns into March, they inevitably have to scale back as members lose their resolve and slip back into old habits and patterns.
Why is it so hard to stick to our resolutions?
Inevitably, most New Year’s resolutions tend to serve as reminders of all the things we feel we should be doing, but probably won’t. We set unrealistic goals that we’re too busy and overwhelmed to accomplish.
We try to maintain our resolve. We really do. But, we take on too much, put too much pressure on ourselves, and eventually, something has to give. So we make excuses, we tell ourselves we’ll get back to it next week, and before you know it, we’ve lost all our resolve, accept that we have failed, once again, and tell ourselves “there’s always next year.”
Why do we even set these unachievable standards for ourselves? Is it because we compare ourselves with others and see all the ways in which they are seemingly living the life we are not? Do we feel the need to live up to some sort of societal standard? Or are we simply trying to change too much at one time?
Try this instead:
Throw out your new year’s resolutions, ignore what society thinks you ought to be doing and, instead, focus on better ways of being. We can do this any time, but a new year is a great time to start!
How would you like to experience life? Who would you like to become? What one word would describe the transformative change you’d like to accomplish?
Now, before you come up with a long list of resolutions again, take a few moments to review your life this last year and look for a theme. Increasing our awareness of the things that we don’t want is the first step to determining what we do want. You might find that what you want is quite different or even opposite of what you are currently experiencing and that causes conflict and dissatisfaction.
- How do you feel about the overall state of your life?
- What do your relationships look like?
- Are you happy in your career or do you hate your job, but keeping doing it anyway?
- Do you enjoy working with your coworkers?
- Do you get along with your children or spouse?
- In what ways do you feel you are falling short?
- What are your beliefs around money?
- What personal challenges keep showing up?
- Think about the emotions that are most prevalent in your life. Do you often feel frustrated? Angry? Unsupported? Judgmental or critical? Are you sad, unfulfilled, too busy, or depressed?
- Do you notice that your relationships are often in conflict?
When you are clear about the areas in which you are struggling the most, what one word would you choose that is the opposite of what you are experiencing?
Rather than strapping yourself with a handful of resolutions that only serve to make you feel guilty when you can’t seem to stick to them, choose a one-word theme that represents an attribute or overall desire that you would like to be present in your life.
A few examples:
1. If you notice that you are in constant conflict and it stresses you out, then perhaps what you long for is to be at peace in your inner world and with others.
You might want to make PEACE your theme for 2020. How can you have a heart that is at peace? Do you learn to discuss issues with loved ones in more respectful ways? Do you work on less judgment and more acceptance of others? Do you resolve to let go of unrealistic expectations? Do you fill your mind with more peaceful thoughts?
As you focus on the feelings, emotions, and benefits of living your life in peace, you will become more acutely aware of all the ways in which you’re not experiencing peace. Focus more on BEing at peace.
With peace as your new focus for the year, you might notice a more mindful awareness of the things that you are doing that do not bring peace. In contrast, you might also begin to recognize more of the good things that bring peace.
You might begin to soften your tone or the words that you speak to others. Maybe you become more willing to offer others a little more grace. You determine to be more kind to yourself. You practice meditating more often.
These don’t necessarily need to be set as resolutions. Just focus on your vision of a more peaceful life and a better way of BEing and you will naturally begin to do things in more peaceful ways.
2. Another common complaint in our society is that of being overwhelmed. There is so much available to us—more information than we can possibly process and digest, much of it extraneous and unimportant. It’s wonderful; it’s astounding; it’s exciting. But, if we cannot manage it, then it becomes the the enemy of our peace.
So if you are in overwhelm, then your focus might be to SIMPLIFY. You could remove apps from your phone, set time limits, or purge your home of unnecessary items. Perhaps you plan simpler or fewer parties or vacations, or drop extracurricular activities.
This was my theme for 2017. I cleaned out my emails and set up automatic filing of emails that I wanted to keep, but didn’t need to read right now. I unsubscribed from many lists. I deleted files from my computer. I cleaned out my closet and gave things away. I scanned documents that I didn’t need to keep and shredded the originals. I stopped saying yes to everything. I used my calendar and reminder apps more effectively.
My focus was on simplifying my life. And it helped. Focusing on simplicity brought me greater awareness and more peace than I was experiencing before.
3. Perhaps you have found that you’re bored, that life has become stagnant or routine, and you simply want to experience more JOY. That could be your theme. Learn to find joy in all that you do. As you focus on joy, you may find more beauty in your life. Your appreciation for the little things can bring more happiness. You may begin to do more things with a joyful heart, speak in a more joyful tone, or make your routine more joyful through music, audio books, or doing things with others. Perhaps you look for others to serve in joyful ways.
4. If you’ve found you are complaining a lot and feeling a little sour about life, you could choose a one-word theme of GRATITUDE. (Or go crazy and make it a two-word theme: Be Grateful or a three-word proclamation: I Am Grateful.)
You might decide that every day you will look for all the good that is happening in your life. As more good comes and as you focus on more good, you may notice that even more good comes. Maybe you write in a gratitude journal every evening and practice prayers of gratitude. If what you focus on expands, then make sure that your focus is on that which you truly want to invite into your life.
Other theme words:
Focus, Change, Inspire, Grow, Be, Balance, Prosper, Enough, Present, Forgive, Smile, Learn, Teach, Harmony, Transform, Believe, Connect, Improve, Belong, Strive, Grace, Happy, Fearless, Hope, Commit, Unlimited, Deliberate, Renew, Love, Possibility, Family, Intentional, Elevate, Calm, Consistency, Brave, Bloom, Organize, Energy, Trust, Seek, Build, Flourish, Dream, Purpose, Action, Wisdom, Stillness, Patience, Delight, Laugh, Sparkle, Wholeness, Shift, Imagine, Adventure, Example, Comfort, Give, Rise, Glow, Finish, Explore, Thrive.
You may want to pick more than one theme. For example, in 2017, I actually chose two single word themes. Simplify and Listen. I still have the post-it note on my computer monitor, which reminds me to:
Create visual reminders
Once you’ve chosen your new year’s theme, remind yourself daily by placing notes on your computer, your smart phone home screen, your bathroom mirror, your desk at work, or on the dashboard of your car. Set a daily reminder on your phone.
Throughout the year, ponder your word, read articles, take courses, or search the Internet for ways to grow. Meditate or journal about it. You could even pick a theme song to go along with it. Take time each day to create a more mindful awareness.
Look at it often throughout the year. As I looked at my one word theme LISTEN, it was a subtle, yet constant, reminder that I wanted to change how I participated in conversations. If I was on the phone or in a session with someone, it helped me be more mindful of listening without judgment.
My relationships improved and I felt a lot more charity toward others. Desiring inner peace seems to be a life theme for me, so the annual themes I choose are steps I deem important in attaining my ultimate goal of inner peace.
My 2019 Theme: SHINE
This past year, I wanted to expand, create, release, lighten up, open up, commit, and grow. The one word that encompassed many of those desires was SHINE, so that has been my theme for 2019.
As a result, I have developed and published a website, started a blog, and put myself out there for the world to discover.
This new intention gave me the courage and confidence to be willing to step out of my comfort zone of privacy and anonymity and begin to share with others the life-changing principles I have learned through my own life experiences–insights and tools I have found that have lightened my burdens and empowered my life.
I wanted to shine the light of hope for others. As a result, this has been a year of breakthroughs, similar to rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds of darkness as I have found new ways to shine my light.
My 2020 Theme: TRANSFORM
I’ve decided my theme for 2020 is going to be TRANSFORM. This applies to different aspects of my life: my health, my finances, my business, and my overall well-being. Transform implies a major change in form, nature, or function and that is my wish for the new year.
Two meaningful scriptures I have been pondering lately are Romans 12:2, “… be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” and Ephesians 4:23, “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” I have been studying the thought process and the critical role our thoughts play in the quality of our lives.
This new understanding has guided the way I plan to transform in the new year. I am becoming more mindful of the thoughts that created the feelings that have influenced prior actions (or lack of action), and resulted in the current conditions of my life.
By renewing [making new, beginning again, restoring, rebuilding, repairing] my thoughts, I believe I will be endowed with divine support and guidance that can transform all areas of my life into something better.
What will your 2020 theme be?
Trust your instincts, listen to your inner voice, and let it guide you on your journey this next year as you develop YOUR PLAN to bring more of what you want into BEING.
Imagine what your life will be like when you master this desire. Anticipate the feelings of satisfaction and joy that you will experience as your life transforms.
May God bless you and your transformative efforts in the new year!