Why you shouldn’t set New Year’s Resolutions

Here’s what I do instead

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. To me, they seem cliche. Everyone talks about them. Everyone sets them. And then, everyone breaks them within a couple of months.

The problem with resolutions

Here’s the thing — resolutions are easy to break because they are too big and not specific. Suddenly everyone is at the gym, working out furiously, because they’ve resolved to get fit, even though they haven’t done any kind of activity in the past five years. Or, everyone has completely upended their diet because they’ve resolved to eat better.

But change is hard, and it takes time to create new habits. When you resolve to do too much all at once, you’re setting yourself up for failure because… you’re human. I’m human. We’re all human. And you should only work on one thing at a time.

I made the same mistake for years, and it nearly killed me. I tried to do to much all at once. Without support, I failed, then I got frustrated and down on myself and thought I was a giant failure.

Resolutions should not make us feel bad about ourselves. So that’s why I stopped.

Choosing a word

There are actually many alternatives to New Year’s resolutions. My alternative is choosing a guiding word for each year.

Choosing a word is a little bit different, because it’s not just about improving one specific thing about yourself. It’s choosing a way you want to feel or a characteristic you want to improve. This word can be part of all of your efforts and something you carry with you through the year.

I’ve chosen a word every year for the past five or six years now. One year I chose “Vibrant.” I was just stepping out on my own as a business owner and I was terrified of networking and putting myself out there. But with my word, I was reminded of how I wanted to be, and it helped me set the tone for every encounter that year. I even chose vibrant clothing.

Last year, I chose “Fearless,” and I ended up facing a lot of scary situations. I learned that being fearless wasn’t exactly something I wanted. I was actually trying to be courageous in the face of fear. So I learned something about myself in 2016.

This year, my word was “Leader.” I spent time reading and working on developing my leadership skills, which I thought needed help. I shared what I learned in a recent LinkedIn post.

For 2018, my word will be “Aware.” During the past year, I learned that I am not as self-aware as I thought I was, and so I want to work on that. But self-awareness is a little limiting, so I expanded it to “Aware.” I want to be aware of others. I want to be aware of what’s happening in my industry, my finances, my employees, my clients, my family and friends, as well as the larger world.

It sounds odd that something so small and seemingly vague could be a better choice that a resolution, but for me it works. It is the word that serves as a guidepost when decisions need to be made. Do I spend an hour watching TV, or do I read the book on awareness I borrowed? Do I choose this path? Or do I choose the path that would make me more aware?

If resolutions haven’t been working for you, I highly recommend choosing a guiding word for the year. It’s a great way to work on a personal aspect that goes farther and deeper than you ever imagined.