It is common to set New Year resolutions when a new year starts. These resolutions often tend to come back year over year: losing weight, earning more, changing jobs, moving more, doing more of this, less of that… How long are we truly committed to our goals? Does setting resolutions truly help us advance toward them? And what’s at the core of these resolutions anyway? We have this grand expectation that the New Year represents a new start, a new chapter in our lives, but a couple of days or weeks into January, we realize that everything is still the same. Materializing our good intentions can be hard in the long run if they are not set from the right place. Here I suggest you ditch New Year resolutions for something more meaningful, motivating, and sustainable.
Reflecting on the closing year
The first step is to reflect on the year behind us. To move forward, we have to let go of what is holding us back: grief, sadness, anger, resentment, disappointment, dreams that didn’t come true, things that went wrong, relationships that struggled. How do we release them? By acknowledging them, feeling the feelings until we can let them go. It starts with listing or journalling how we felt through the year. And then let those emotions wash over us. The same exercise should be done for the positive emotions and events: what can we be grateful for? when did we feel joy, love, connection, serenity, hope? Importantly, we can find purpose in every single thing we lived through during the year: what lessons have we learned? how does that set us on our life’s journey? Write it all down, absorb it, and express gratitude for the gifts in all things.
Why ditch the resolutions?
The problem with resolutions is that they are often based on social norms, and pressure we put on ourselves as if we were not already good enough as we are. Expectations set by our environment influence our goals. Resolutions are full of musts, have to’s, should’s. Naturally, when we don’t achieve them, we beat ourselves up for failure. Resolutions are much more effective if they are based on what we truly care about, aligned with our heart and our authenticity.
When we figure out which value(s) matter(s) to us most, and why, we are more likely to find a genuine desire, rather than one imposed by society, our education, our friends and family, … Moreover, relying solely on willpower and reason to achieve something is not sustainable. The only thing that keeps us going is ‘feeling like doing it’. When we don’t feel like it, we are less likely to stick to our new habits. But when it comes from deep inside, the guts and heart, instead of brain and ego, it is more meaningful and motivating. Growing requires us to crack and shed our shell, to let the inside see the light of day.
Ditch resolutions, audit values
Values are usually one word, non-material concepts. They are at the core of our identity and our actions. Sometimes we embrace a value because we want to escape something we do not want to experience (again). For instance, we might value honesty, because we have been lied to and cheated, and never want to go through that again. Or we can value honesty because we grew up in such an environment and it feels like home. When our values are based on things we want to avoid, they can actually hold us back. Values can also be in conflict with one another; we may want safety and adventure. Bringing awareness to what is hiding behind our life’s results and our behaviors is such a crucial step to change and growth.
As we do this audit, we have to be honest with ourselves, there may be values we wish to have, and yet, clearly they are not currently playing an important role in our life. As we go through our list of values, we evaluate whether we can see them at play or not so much, and if we have them as an escape mechanism or a motivation toward an ideal (it will likely be a mix of both but in different proportions). Once we have painted the current picture, we can imagine our desired future. As we uncover which values are escape mechanisms, and which are missing, we can make a new list of what we truly care about (while always keeping in mind why). This can become what we are striving for. That’s our core slowly piercing through the shell. And it becomes our North Star. It allows evaluating all parts of our life, to see what matches our values, and what doesn’t, what needs to change, and what needs to be focused on.
Ditch resolutions, adopt a value as a New Year theme
Now we have our North Star, our values as a GPS. Ditch New Year resolutions, and replace them by focusing on one or two values as a theme for the New Year. Those values that are not taking enough space in your current life can become the focus of the New Year. List ways in which you could integrate them more. Make a plan of clearing up what is holding you back and going against your values. And there you have a motivating and sustainable way of growing your true self in 2022. Indeed, you are less likely to fail when using your values as a theme. Values give you the flexibility to adjust throughout the year and align step by step. It is less black-or-white thinking as a fixed goal. When you focus on your values, you focus on the bigger picture, and the benefit of that is that it will take you to your most desired goals. It will take you to the heart of who you are and make it expand. It will feed your life’s meaning.
I wish you a valuable New Year, where you become more aligned with who you truly are deep inside!
So, tell us, what resolutions are you ditching, and what values are you focusing on?