Avoiding New Year Resolutions

January is here.  We’re back at work.  We’ve said Happy New Year, enquired about how we spent the holiday season.  And the next question that gets asked is “what are your new year resolutions?”. 

I don’t know about you but setting new year resolutions doesn’t work for me.  Over the years I have dallied with them – made them, stuck to them and then broken them.  I’ve had ones based on what I wanted to weigh, what I wanted to eat (or not), what exercise I was going to do, what I wanted to do in my career.  And none of them have ever really done anything for me.  They haven’t galvanised me into action, nor radically changed my life in any way!

Why do we bother?

I was doing some reading around the topic this week.  Did you know the ancient Babylonians were said to have set new year resolutions about 4000 years ago?  It appears that as a race, we have a rich tradition of celebrating the new year (whenever it falls for you) and making promises, perhaps to our god or perhaps to ourselves, in order to seek good favour.

Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any historical research about how often the Babylonians broke their resolutions.  But the internet is littered with suggestions about how well we do, or don’t, stick to them nowadays.  YouGovAmerica claims as many as 35% of people stick to them, whereas Professor Richard Wiseman suggests the figure is as low as 12%.

My personal success rate is 0%.  

Doing new year resolutions differently

So this year I have been exploring doing it differently.  I came across this beautiful Year Compass – a resource which has some lovely reflective questions in it to help you close one year and prepare for the next.  And the phrase that jumped out for me, as I completed it, was “I will…”.

We tried using this phrase with our Becoming Community last week.  The challenge was to complete the sentence “This year, I will…”.  We asked them to be open about what came up for them, and to find a word or short phrase that worked for them.  And the results were beautiful.  This year, women of our community will:

  • Recalibrate
  • Struggle less
  • Bring the joy
  • Balance better
  • Be still
  • Pause and reflect
  • Rethink and make changes

What I love about these words is that they’re not measurable.  They fly in the face of all the advice to make “SMART” goals.  They are, instead, intentions that will guide the choices that these women make, whether they are small, in-the-moment choices, or fundamental longer-term choices. With these words, they will be able to choose the things that are important to them and take actions that align to their values.

For me personally, this year I will seek ease.  I’m not looking for an easy life. But I’m looking to do the things that help me be at ease in my decision making, my relationships, my conversations, my life.  Currently, this intention is enabling me to choose to get up at 6.30am to do 30mins of yoga in order to seek ease in my physical body (even when it feels like the last thing I want to do).

So, if you’re struggling with new year resolutions, then consider taking the time to complete the sentence “This year, I will…” and see where it leads you.  It might just help you make some decisions and take actions towards the life that you want to lead.

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