A More Effective Strategy Than Setting Resolutions

Some people think New Year’s Resolutions are silly. I am not one of those people, though I recognize the logic. Researchers estimate that only 8% of people stick with their NYR’s through the year. That’s why I approach the whole thing a bit differently (although, I must admit my success rate isn’t the best either).

We are adults now, which means there aren’t a lot of pre-determined milestones on the calendar anymore. We will have birthdays that end in zeroes, title changes, and stuff like that. But at no point will we officially graduate from one thing to the next unless we design those bridges ourselves. So, yes, as silly as it may seem - the turn of the year is as good of a time to build a bridge as any. 

For the last two years, I’ve set aside 2-3 days to review, reflect, reset, and resolve. I want to head into each new year with an idea of who I want to become and what I want to accomplish. This isn’t about creating unrealistic, sweeping goals - like meditating or writing for 365 days in a row. [Been there, done that.]

It’s about setting an intention, not letting this year (like years past) pass you by. If you want to change your life, it starts a day, week, month, and year at a time. It’s all about creating and maintaining good habits - yes, yes, of course.

These are simple things, things we all “know.” Yet, we struggle so deeply to layer those things - day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

We haven’t mastered our own minds, our own human nature. We allow one slip - one missed workout, one bad email, one ridiculous obstacle - to become catastrophic. It throws us off and we wait another 11 months to change our lives.

This cycle is, in effect, the definition of insanity. Yet, our hope, our optimism drive us to believe we can be better (because we can).

Ryan Holiday writes in his article “How to Develop Better Habits in 2019”:

“I’ve always been fond of this advice from Oprah: If you catch yourself eating an Oreo, don’t beat yourself up; just try to stop before you eat the whole sleeve. Don’t turn a slip into a catastrophic fall.”

Simple advice, yet hard to follow. I think it is important to remember as we embark into the season of personal change and development that we are quick to judge and reprimand ourselves, even quicker to give up on ourselves. We can become a slave to our habits and routines, allowing just one little thing to throw us into fits of self-loathing. How can we defend against this?

The key is in how we see ourselves, what we get our identity points from. To effectively change what we are capable of, we must change who we are. This is the difference between saying, “I am going to go to the gym 5 times a week” and tying “fit” into who you are as a person. A fit person takes the stairs. A reluctant gym goer rides the elevator.

Instead of sitting down and writing out a bunch of goals that will be hard to keep, a dear friend recently gave me what I think is much better advice. He asked me to visualize myself 12 months from now.

He set the scene: I’m sitting at a table, preparing to eat dinner with my family during the holidays.

Who is that person? he asked.

He had me write down three words to describe her.

Then, helped me change those words to mean something.

Congruent. Inspirational. Confident.

If I was those three things next year this time, I’d have achieved all my goals. I’d be doing the things I want to be doing, serving the world around me, and showing up in a big way. It’s that simple. The path forward is to become better, not just to achieve some new level of success.

So here’s my advice. Take it for what you will. This year focus on the person you want to become, not what you want to do.

Who do you plan on becoming this year? What are your three words? What do you think you’ll be able to accomplish by becoming that type of person? What will make you proud to sit down at that dinner table? And what do you need to do to make it happen?

Kate Ward