Forget New Year’s resolutions! Do these 3 things instead

Giving up on New Year’s resolutions this year? For a fresh perspective, try these three suggestions to start this year in the best possible way.

Forget New Year’s resolutions! Do these 3 things instead

I gave up New Year’s resolutions a long time ago.

More importantly, I have never looked back.

This wasn’t a decision made in defeat because I couldn’t achieve my resolutions. After all, I followed the guidance on setting SMART goals and remembered to acknowledge the small wins that add up to cumulative success as we are often reminded to do.

It was simply that on reflection, my view was that these types of resolutions come with the expectation of a new year bringing with it a personal remodel.

There’s nothing wrong with that of course. Self improvement is what we are all striving for;  or trying to find the time to get to if we aren’t quite there. It’s just that I realised the concept of resolutions and I were not well aligned in two fundamental ways.

Firstly, the focus of resolutions we all tend to make seems to be addressing what we see as our personal shortcomings or deficiencies.

Many of us start resolutions with “This year I will ( be better at, get around to)…..” or “This year I will not……

if this doesn’t quite apply to you, you might be one of the very few of us who has not resolved to; go to the gym, improve your diet, work less, be more purposeful. The self improvement list goes on.

Secondly, implicit in the timing of New Year’s resolutions is that individual transformation can or should only take place annually. 

With U.S News reporting that 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February, it seems making it through January is its own win. 

That doesn’t however, set us up well for the rest of the year.  Unfortunately all it does really seem to do is give us a bit over 10 months to berate what we see as a personal failure, even though the majority of the population is right there with us.

With the odds so heavily stacked against resolutions, and for those of us not quite ready to give up yet,  what is left to do instead?

It’s important to note that I believe the new year is an important milestone because it creates a space for us to think about what has gone before and what we would like to realise from what is ahead.

So if you, like me, were never that inspired by resolutions, these strategies may be helpful in setting up and navigating the year ahead.

Three things you can do that are more beneficial than setting New Year’s resolutions this year:

Identify and cultivate moments that inspire you; then make more

Instead of thinking about what you haven’t done well or enough of, reflect on what you’ve achieved in the last year both personally and professionally.

Remember accomplishments, moments, and experiences where you were at your best.

Some call this flow, others the zone. Irrespective of what we call it, we understand the importance of those moments.

They may be very small or incidental. For me, the memory of hospitality at a little trattoria in Rome which had me sharing grappa early in the morning on an empty stomach is just as inspiring as a large project delivered successfully.

Or it may not have been the achievement of something, simply the attempt and perhaps, the surprise, of doing better than we thought. (I rode my first bicycle in 20 years in Myanmar in December and my sense of achievement was in simply staying on. This may not be a moment I will rush to replicate).

Think about what you have done and consider – in whatever way works for you – how to foster the circumstances or relationships that enable you to surprise yourself.

And don’t forget to provide some self-acknowledgement along the way.

Explore self-renewal

While the start of the new year is a great time to reflect on changes we may want to make, or those we feel we need to, we know from transformation efforts in our work lives that there’s never just ‘one thing”. 

Any significant achievement is the culmination of detailed planning and execution and good practices, consistency, hard work, and yes, sometimes luck, all play a key part.

The strategy of self-renewal is critical here; taking inventory of experiences and finding the motivation to come back from disappointments and set backs.

Understanding the importance of self-renewal gives us permission to accept that peaks and troughs are inevitable. It’s how we deal with them that matters.

Consistency, mindset, and resilience matter and help us navigate the challenges. John Gardner has a brilliantly inspiring perspective on this.

“You don’t need to run down like an unwound clock. And if your clock is unwound, you can wind it up again”.

He reminds us that although some challenges may seem insurmountable, we can always control how we respond. For me, simply going for a run is one of my go-tos. The distance and pace will vary depending on how I am feeling at that point in time.

You can define and choose your own way to self renew that works for you.

Experiment with curiosity

My nephews are constantly asking me questions.

Although this continues to surprise me, those with children may just be glad that someone else is being subjected to the inquisitive mind of the young. Topics range from my preference for the DC versus Marvel Universe, anything sports related ( I fail miserably here), to how I ended up in Myanmar last year (I’m yet to explain that to their satisfaction).  

Instead of making a resolution for a specific intention, consider a mindset around curiosity.

Experimenting with curiosity enables you to simply say you will ask questions, be open to new ideas, and try new things.  

Always asking why? Change your mindset and ask why not? It allows you to frame a world of possibilities and opens up opportunities that you may not otherwise be privy to or would have considered.

That’s a big part of how I actually did end up in Myanmar.

More importantly, curiosity sets a framework for continuous learning. That in itself facilitates new skills, different perspectives, and as mentioned above, self-renewal.

If you aren’t up to seeking something new to explore, that’s ok. A good way to start is simply to not dismiss the next idea someone shares with you.

Want to simplify even more than that? Try a new food, read a book on a topic you don’t know much about, or listen to music in a new genre.

Take the learning that comes with it, even if it that you won’t be doing that again!

There is no doubting that we know what we should be doing and that the challenge is always in making it a reality.  So with the start of the new year, it is a great time to remember that this year will be about continuing on the successes of last year, and the combination of small moments count just as much as the big ones.

This article was originally published on January 14, 2019

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