It’s that time of year. You know, the time when we choose our New Year’s resolution, set it with the best of intentions, do it for a week or two, and then give up. And completely forget about it. Or worse yet: get depressed and down on ourselves because we failed YET AGAIN.
But I’ve got a secret: I don’t do a New Year’s resolution (and haven’t for years). I do something better – something that sets me up for success for the year. And I’ve got a resource below that you can use that will help set you up for serious success this year too.
Why I Don’t Do New Year’s Resolutions – and Maybe You Shouldn’t Either
Reason #1: They’re often contrived and/or half-hearted
So many of us come up with a New Year’s resolution because it’s what you do at the beginning of a new year. A new year means you’re supposed to set a resolution, right? Never mind whether it’s something you truly want or feel strongly about.
Let’s be honest, what makes the new year so special? I mean, if you REALLY want to change something in your life, why wait until the beginning of a new year to do so?
Reason #2: The resolution itself is often based on a “should”
Resolutions are often things we think we should be doing or that we’re supposed to want for ourselves. Even if you set a resolution that you know you need, if it’s based on a “should” and not on something you truly want, then you’re basing it off someone else’s standards. And not your needs, wants, or values – which never works.
Reason #3: Having a “fresh-start” mentality – without doing the internal work necessary to get there
Another big reason that New Year’s resolutions fail: the “fresh start” mindset that permeates many resolutions. For whatever reason, we have convinced ourselves that the turn of the calendar means a fresh start. As though the reasons behind why we haven’t yet conquered our resolution don’t exist or have been miraculously washed away.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that everyone (including you) deserves and can have a fresh start from time to time. But getting a fresh start means dealing with things that have been holding you back – and if you don’t do that work first, then the fresh start won’t ever happen for you.
Reason Number 4: They’re often massive and vague, with little to no planning as to how they’ll be achieved
Most resolutions involve huge changes – that are also vague. And there’s not a lot of planning that goes into how they’ll be achieved. For example, many people want to “get into better shape” or “be healthier”. But what does that mean? Does being in better shape mean losing a certain amount of weight, having your clothes fit you, or getting a do-able exercise plan into place and following it at least 4-5 times a week (or maybe all three of these things)? Does being healthier mean eating only natural and organic foods or cutting out sugar?
It’s no wonder these resolutions fail. There’s no specificity to them. And worse: they involve making major changes to your life. In order to make these type of changes, you’ll need a strong game plan that includes support and the ability to identify and break through mental barriers along the way. Although these changes are possible, it isn’t something you can push through with sheer force and new-found New Year’s energy. It requires careful thought and planning (which is often lacking when it comes to resolution-setting).
Let go of Resolution-Making and Set a Theme For the Year
So, now that you know why I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, you may be wondering what I do instead. Because, if you’ve been following me for even a little while, you’ve likely guessed that I do something. Something that’s designed to assist me in learning new things and growing as a human being. And that sets me up for success for the year – on my terms, of course.
What do I do? I set a theme for the year. A theme is a word or phrase that guides me throughout the year when I set goals and make decisions. I design my themes specifically to challenge me in an area I find myself lacking or wanting some desired growth. And I like to leverage what I’ve learned about myself over the past year (and what I know I want to achieve in the coming year) into my new theme.
The reason I set a new theme for each calendar year is simple: it helps me keep track and measure my progress.
Want some examples of themes that I’ve used in the past? Here are a few:
- Daily fulfillment. This was several years ago, when I still practiced law. I wanted to be more fulfilled by the work I did on a daily basis (including who I worked for). So, I set my theme and made a concerted effort to (1) become friends with my clients (because who wants to work a lot for people that you don’t care about), and (2) stop working for clients that I didn’t like and replace them with clients that I cared about and wanted to work hard for. And I happened to have tremendous growth in my business that year – that was fulfilling.
- Balance. I focused on making intentional choices that made sense for me to feel fulfilled both in my law practice and at home – and allowed me some more time with my boys/husband/friends. And it didn’t hurt my business at all either.
- Connection. This was my 2017 theme. I endeavored to feel more connected to myself, my boys, my husband, my friends, and my business. I kept this in mind (and focused on it) with each goal I set and when big decisions needed to be made.
The Benefits of a Theme
A theme is flexible and more forgiving than a resolution. You can set numerous goals within that theme that get fleshed out and met throughout the year. And if, along the way, you change your perspective on a goal – it’s easy to change course. All you have to do is re-think how you want it to work within the broader theme and move forward.
Working from within a theme also helps keep you going when things don’t go as planned in respect of a goal. Because you can pause, re-think it and decide to go in a new direction – yet still stay within your theme. This is HUGE for me – because I never feel like I’m failing at anything so long as I continue to work from within my theme (which means that I’m still on course).
So long as you set a theme that’s designed to help challenge you and grow, the theme will help keep you moving forward and will help you to set bigger goals for yourself. And you’re less likely to give up.
It’s a very different way of looking at the year. And I find that it keeps me more accountable to myself, stretches and challenges me, and helps me to grow in new and unexpected ways. And it’s a key reason why I so often achieve (and even exceed) my goals.
Time to Pick Your Theme for the New Year
Are you ready to ditch the New Year’s resolution and adopt a them for the year instead? I encourage you to try it out. Pick a theme that will challenge and excite you at the same time (if you’re a little scared by it, you’re doing it right). The point is to pick something that will help bring you closer to your overriding vision for who you want to be and what you want to be doing (both personally and professionally).
I know that setting a theme for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. Maybe you’re not sure how to get started. Or maybe you have so many ideas that it’s tough to narrow them down into just one. I have just the thing for you. I’ve put together a list of 10 questions to help you determine your theme for the year. It will walk you through the questions I ask myself every year in order to decide upon my new theme for the year. And it will help you set yours with confidence and ease.
So, download your list now (you can sign up for it below), print it out, and set your theme for the year. And then, in the comments below, let me know what your theme is and what that means for you. I can’t wait to hear from you.
Until next time….
P.S. You may be wondering what my theme is for this year. If you receive my newsletter, then you know that I’ve been fighting an internal battle – I’ve been way too worried about what people will think of me if I share more (or do Facebook Live or any number of things that would make me more visible). And I’m working to overcome that (because it’s holding me back in my business and personally). So, my theme for the year is to be fearless. Who’s ready to be fearless with me?