10 Feel-Good Alternatives to New Year's Resolutions
If you are anything like the team here at Proviz, the lull between Christmas and New Year is a natural time to consider the events of the previous year and to wonder what the coming year will bring. For many of us, this means considering what resolutions to adopt to make us better versions of ourselves.
Working for a brand that is supported by a lot of people who regularly go out and challenge themselves to achieve bigger and better things in running, cycling and outdoor pursuits, members of the Proviz team are often tempted to make resolutions along those lines too. Getting back to marathon fitness, signing up to a triathlon or raising valuable funds for charity by scaling a mountain or two are all worthy goals, but what happens when business as usual resumes in January and we realise that there are currently not enough hours in the day to commit to intensive training programs?
It is truly inspirational to hear stories from people who have turned their lives around by resolving to make positive changes to their lifestyles, but there is nothing worse that emerging from the rich food and introspection fog of “twixmas” to start the year feeling like you have already failed to keep your New Year’s resolutions (only twenty percent of people keep them).
With this in mind, we have come up with 10 things you can do instead of making empty promises to yourself this year. If you are someone with a long rapsheet of criminally unrealistic New Year’s resolutions (which you have reneged on within the first few days of January) or someone who lets the majority of New Year’s Days come and go without us getting round to making any decent and achievable new year’s resolutions, this list is for you!
Make a List of Achievements You’re Proud of From Last Year
If you are getting gloomy dwelling on your terrible track record for making NYRs, take a few minutes to list a few things that you did in the previous year that made you proud. This will show you that, even without character-building goals made on January 1st, you can still achieve things over the next 364 days that make you happy. They don’t have to be Nobel Prize winning feats; making it to Parkrun a few times or going on a family holiday and not part-exchanging your kids for holiday knick knacks at a shady bazaar because they wouldn’t stop arguing - little things like this, where you found some inner strength and achieved a little win, are all worth a place on your ‘Pat on the Back’ list.
Get to Know Your Inner Demons a Bit Better
The top three reasons that 80% of new year’s resolutions fail are:
- Fear of the work required to achieve the goal
- Lack of accountability and outside support to help sustain change
- An inability to pair the desired adjustment to behaviour with a transformation in thinking.
If you want to be the kind of person who can sustain a long term goal like a new year’s resolution, it may be worth looking at what it is about your personality that keeps tripping you up. Character assassinating yourself may not sound like a fun thing to do between Christmas and New Year, but if you are serious about trying to achieve goals that have previously eluded you, it’s a good place to start making some lasting positive changes (and just remember, hundreds of people camp outside the flagship stores of big brands in the cold, waiting for the doors to open on their Boxing Day sales - at least a bit of good honest navel gazing can be done from somewhere comfortable and will definitely be more beneficial than anything you could have bought in a shop in the final days of December).
Set Yourself a 30-Day Challenge
Standard resolutions that are often made at new year include wanting to eat better, get fit, lose weight or earn more money. The problem with these goals is their vague nature. They don't have proper metrics for success or the incentive of proper time limits. Better to say 'I want a job that pays £X by the end of the year' and list a few tactics that you intend to employ to achieve it.
Alternatively, translate those lofty 365-Day challenges into a series of 30-day challenge ideas with realistic goals. Sticking with the 'wanting to earn more money' goal, if you are often a bit late for work, set yourself the challenge of being on time or early for the month of January. Even if your boss is pretty relaxed and hasn't pulled you up on your hasty 9.05am arrivals in the past, they will start to notice your new punctuality habit and maybe you'll be a step closer to that promotion and larger pay packet.
If you can stick with it for 30 days, chances are you will be a habitually more punctual person at the end of the four weeks. You can then move on to February's mini challenge, which could be topping up your professional skills with an online evening course or participating in a new professional networking group.
Make a Charitable Donation
You don't have to embark on a gruelling training program and commit to devoting every weekend for six months to drumming up sponsorship for a charity ascent of Mount Everest. You could just make a one-off donation to good cause close to your heart. This is a solid jumping-off point for the year to come and, irrespective of the size of your donation, you can go into January with the warm, fuzzy feeling that you have done something kind for others. It's quick, it's easy and it won't leave you feeling like you failed by Blue Monday.
Make a Bucket List
Rather than revisiting a lengthy list of previous resolutions that haven't worked out, or doing a full life audit that leaves you feeling like you've just done twelve rounds with a heavyweight boxer, you could write a bucket list instead. So many new year's resolutions focus on a particular way we want to look or on a particular lifestyle we want to have. Whilst these imaginings of our potential futures can be powerful motivators to make today's behavioural changes, it's a nice idea to look at things a bit differently and think about what you actually want to do in life instead. It's definitely more fun to think about!
Maybe you want to spend the weekend at a high-end spa with your best friends, visit a new country on your next holiday or catch up with an old acquaintance you no longer see regularly. If you want to share your enthusiasm for planning for the future, get your partner and kids involved to create some family goals for the list too. As a general rule, the more people you get on board, the more likely you are to start ticking items off that list. With each tick feeling like a little win, this approach has the potential to be a lot more gratifying than traditional resolutions.
Set Some Alerts for the Coming Year
On of the main problems with NYRs is that we make them during quiet moments (often in the hiatus between Christmas and New Year) and then get too busy to action them when life is back to normal again. Maybe it would be worth using that quiet time to set some alerts on your virtual calendar. Find some inspiring quotes and have them pop up on days or times of year you may find tough. Hate Mondays? Have a different joke pop up on your alerts mid-morning each week to make you smile. Set reminders to send a friendly line or two via email or WhatsApp to a different person on your contacts list each Wednesday. By the end of the year you will have cheered up 52 people's hump days.
Doing this makes good use of the down time you could be wasting imagining impossibly unrealistic versions of yourself and pretending that you are a few handfuls of leafy greens or a tough personal challenge away from achieving.
Say Thank You
Rather than agonising over how you want to look or the lifestyle a smarter, richer, sexier version of you could be living, consider the things in your life that you are grateful for and say thank you to the people who make your life better. This can take the form of a gratitude journal or you could just write a quick list of people on an old receipt and drop each person on it a message. You can be earnest and tell them you are super grateful for their presence in your life, or you can just say hi and arrange a catch up in the new year. Either way you are starting the year positively and reaching out to your nearest and dearest in the process, which is a win/win surely?
Set 52 Small, Achievable Weekly Goals (instead of one big, difficult one)
Think your house is too cluttered? Spend a week identifying 5 things every day that you are prepared to donate to the charity shop (and then donate them).
Getting a bit short of breath at the top of the stairs at home? Take the stairs at work instead of the lift for a week and see if you've started a 'stair habit'. If you find that you are sweaty and grumpy and it takes until lunch time to return to your normal resting heart rate, get back in that lift when the week is up and find a different way to improve your fitness.
Sitting down at the end of December and creating an achievable list of goals for each of the 52 weeks in the year allows you to address issues in various areas of your life. Although the overarching idea of self-improvement is the same for 52 weekly goals as it is for one big 365-day challenge, the shorter timeframe for each makes it easier to stick to even the toughest ones (it's only a week after all).
Having 52 individual challenges also means that you can completely bomb out on a few of them and still look back on the year and proudly count your successes. If you only have one yearly goal and you drop the ball by mid January, it is a lot more likely that you will give up all together. If your goals are weekly, you can give yourself the odd week off and start afresh with your next challenge on Monday.
Become a Cheerleader for your Friends
As one of the main reasons so many of us give up on our NYRs is lack of support, you could be a hero and help your friends to achieve their goals for the year. Spurring them on with encouraging social media comments, accompanying them on a few of their training sessions or sharing a piece of advice that you think may be useful (they can always ignore it if they don't want to take it :-)) could help them stick with their personal betterment plan. It may not help you to get a promotion or meet the partner of your dreams, but it will make you an ace friend.
Don't Do Anything
The last three years have been a rollercoaster and our strength and resilience has been tested repeatedly by a series of different challenges. From multiple Covid-19 lockdowns to the cost of living crisis and everything in between. If ever there is a year when we can think 'let's just get through this one, ok?' it's 2023. Some people thrive on life lists, productivity journals and mission statements and they would probably feel sad going into January without an actionable plan. If you are not one of these people and the pressure to reinvent yourself every year just makes you feel depressed, then be kind to yourself and take the year off. You deserve it.