Over the years, prompted by various ‘experts’, I’ve tried every kind of New Year’s practice under the sun including elaborate goal setting to future journaling to creating gratitude lists. In this article, rather than telling you the right method for you, I’m going to give you 7 ways to set up your New Year’s resolution, in order to choose the one that works best for where you are right now.
I posted the question a few days ago on my Instagram: what do you do for the New Year in terms of resolutions, goal setting, or reflection? What is your favorite method?
I was surprised to see how many people said that they don’t have any practice for New Year’s.
I have followed online experts who tell you the best method to practice on New Year’s and have bought expensive planners and 40 page eBooks detailing about a million things to overhaul in your life.
Nowadays, I keep it simple.
Each practice has positives and negatives, depending on your perspective around it and how likely you are to stick to it.
It’s not about picking the BEST practice, it’s about choosing a practice that feels right for you right now.
So in this article, let’s go through 7 ways to set up your New Year’s resolutions.
1. Set specific goals or choose a New Year’s resolution.
The most popular practice on New Year’s is to choose a resolution.
A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.
Many years, I’ve chosen a set of goals and narrowed them down.
If you’re someone who likes having a very direct target then setting up goals may be the right practice for you.
You’ll want to use SMART goals, which makes them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time oriented. This could be something like “I am going to lose 10 pounds by July 1, 2019.”
Sounds great, right?
This is where goal-setting typically falls short.
Make sure if you’re going to set up a goal that you have a strong purpose behind the goal and that you make all of the decisions that need to be made ahead of time to achieve that goal.
The purpose may be that by losing 10 pounds it would give you confidence to get out in the world more and meet new people. Then know what needs to be done consistently to achieve this goal.
2. Write a letter to your future self.
This has been my personal favorite for many years and has served me quite well. Last year I wrote an article called “The only thing I do for the New Year” about exactly how I do this practice.
It’s a way of reflecting on your hopes and dreams for the coming year and strengthening the belief that they are possible, even if you have no idea how to make them happen.
You open a journal and date it one year from today as you write a letter to your future self.
If you desperately want a relationship, for example, you may write:
“I can’t believe how awesome this past year has been! Just a few months into the new year I went on a date with this guy that at first I didn’t think anything would come of it. After so many disappointments I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but Brad continued to pursue me and I fell hard. I mean, hard. It felt nothing like the past times that I fell for a guy too fast. This time it was easy and natural, and can you believe we’re planning on moving in together at the beginning of 2020?!”
Once you’ve written this letter to your future self, you just sort of forget about it. Yup, you surrender.
3. Pick a New Year theme.
This one is probably the most simple practice.
Basically, you want to pick an umbrella theme for the year in which all else will fall under. It may be an area of your life that feels more important than all the rest.
While there are many areas in my life that are important to me, with having a newborn baby, “motherhood” this year will probably be my dominant theme whether I want it to be or not!
It’s not because I want to be the perfect mom or do it right, as I’ve learned there is absolutely no such thing (and don’t let any articles or Instagram photos tell you otherwise). For me, it’s more about being present, being vulnerable and honest in the times that get tough, and just enjoying this short season of my life.
The same might be said if you recently got married, are entering a new relationship, or have gotten a promotion at work.
- Saying Yes
4. Reflect on the previous year.
Rather than future projecting, you may decide that the best practice for you is to reflect on the year that just passed.
This can be extremely helpful, as many people breeze through their lives without any reflection.
You may ask yourself or write down the following questions:
- What would I like to take from this past year and bring more of and less of into the coming year?
- What were the hardest times in the past year? Why?
- What were my greatest joys this past year? Why?
- What were my biggest blessings in this past year?
- Did I have a default way of being or reacting? Has this served me?
- How have I evolved in the past year? Who would I like to be this coming year?
5. Light a candle and set an intention.
An intention is sort of like a resolution, but is more about a mental, emotional, or spiritual state rather than something concrete.
Some examples of mindful intentions include:
- I intend to be kind to myself and others in all situations.
- I intend to uphold my own words and actions in the integrity I expect from others.
- I intend to be as present and positive on all the new dates I go on.
- I intend to make meditation a natural part of my life.
- I intend to stop letting fear be my only reaction to every situation. Instead, I will ask myself, “If I wasn’t allowed to be afraid, how else may I respond to this?”
- I intend to stop taking things so personally.
6. Choose a new daily habit.
My husband will be doing an extremely intensive 50 hour challenge this spring called Kokoro camp, run by past Navy Seal Mark Divine who owns the company SealFit.
Mark has a podcast called “Unbeatable Mind” which I occasionally listen to, inspired by my husband’s commitment to this process.
One guest that had a profound effect on me was James Clear who recently appeared on his podcast about the process of getting to your goals. I would highly recommend listening to it if you want to create new habits or goals in your life!
One thing James talks about is not focusing on future goals, but setting up new consistent habits.
I’ve struggled with getting up early for years, and with a toddler it’s become even more important to me so that I can set up my day before he gets up in the morning.
Rather than creating an elaborate morning routine, I started by focusing on what James said by setting the alarm clock for 6 am and having my slippers next to the bed.
I wouldn’t make myself do anything in particular except just turn off my alarm, sit up, and put my slippers on. Some days I would get up and have a great morning, while other days I would stay a little longer in bed and just breathe. The key was that I made showing up the habit, and eventually could add on more to my morning routine.
7. Think of the type of person you’d like to become.
Whatever practice you decide you chose for New Year’s, the most important and beautiful thing is that it’s adding to the person you’d like to become.
At the end of the day a goal is just a goal and would be meaningless without it adding to the person you envision yourself as being.
Your best self, in other words.
Why would you care about losing 10 pounds if you didn’t think it would make you happier, more consistent, more confident, more social, more fashionable, etc.?
You’ll be much more likely to succeed if you think about the type of person you’d like to BE this coming year, and then use that as your North Star.
If you want to be the type of person who has lots of energy and puts 100% into everything they do, what is that kind of person like? What habits do they have?
This method is going to be the one I pick this year! I want to show up into 2019 as the type of person, with the kind of energy, I desire to have.
I know that it won’t be perfect but an evolving process.
However, if I have a strong vision of this type of person, I know that in time it will guide every choice I make easily and joyfully.
Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! What practice works best for you?
If you would like help with this, I only have a handful of single session slots available before I go on maternity leave. Book yours now if you want to talk to me personally before February.