A new year is upon us. The optimists are all ready to seize the whole year. This will be the one, right? Meanwhile, the cynics are ready to criticize everyone as they fail to live up to their resolutions. Where do you fall on that spectrum?
Whatever your answer, the truth is that New Year’s resolutions often aren’t worth a whole lot. We make unrealistic promises to ourselves and then feel terrible when they fail. So, let’s embrace the cliche and promise to make this year different. How can we do that? We’re going to shift how we think about resolutions altogether.
Try a little mindfulness
Mindfulness comes in many forms. It can be as simple as sitting still and trying to be present in a moment. It can be the active practice of gratitude — where you really stop and think about things that are good or positive in your life.
Mindfulness can come in the form of meditation. It can be a simple moment where you stop thinking about things and trying to control the world around you. You simply exist and pay attention to how you feel about it all.
This isn’t a clear goal, and that’s the point. You’ll see this in all of these resolutions. This isn’t something that you can really fail at doing. It’s something that can have a small but good impact on your life if you give it a little attention every now and then.
Seek out new experiences
If you want to seek out new experiences, the easiest thing to do is travel. Then again, that takes up time and money, and in a post coronavirus world, travel isn’t always accessible. So, travel if you can, but there are other ways to seek out new experiences.
Strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and no agenda other than seeing what happens. Try out a new hobby or skill. You’re not pursuing mastery. You’re just trying to savor the idea of a new experience that helps you grow.
Get proactive with health improvements
Let’s not get carried away. Don’t set a weight goal. Don’t decide that you need to do exactly 439 pushups every day. Most New Year’s resolutions reach too high in these regards. We all get these ideas of how we’ll work out every day and never eat junk food again.
Sure, some people pull that off, but most of us are human.
You can set a smaller goal that you’ll definitely meet. Make a resolution to embrace the idea of little steps towards a generally healthier lifestyle. You don’t have to get a perfect night of sleep every night, but maybe you can spend a little time fostering a nighttime routine that helps your sleep a bit.
Do you see the trend? You don’t have to become a completely new person this year. Instead, you can steer into the idea of small, valuable improvements in your life.
Explore another perspective
This is probably the hardest idea on this list, but it’s a worthy one. Try to really put yourself in the shoes of someone whose life is substantially different from your own.
This isn’t a thought experiment. Have some real conversations. Really try to live life from a completely different perspective, even if only for a brief moment.
Here’s an example. Odds are that the majority of you reading this have never worked on a farm. So, you could explore another perspective by having a nice, long conversation with a farmer. Maybe you can even go to a farm and do a day’s work. This allows you to really try to see what the lifestyle is like. You can try to genuinely understand another person’s point of view.
The farm example is a little weird, but you can do this anywhere, and it will broaden your view of the world in ways you can’t imagine.
This idea always feels so hard. How do you even find a place to volunteer?
The truth is, if you plan this resolution right and put any amount of effort into it, you’ll find it very rewarding. Your resolution does not need to realign your life around volunteering for some noble cause. It can be so much simpler.
Just volunteer once. That’s all you are asking of yourself. You’re going to spend a little time on the internet and try to find a charity, event or program where you can volunteer. It’s fine to cater to your own interests. If you love dogs, see if you can help at a shelter. If you don’t hate math, tutor a 4th grader. Volunteer at least one time this year to get the experience and see if it moves you.
Where you go from there is no longer about a New Year’s resolution. It’s about where you choose to go from there.
New Year’s resolutions can be a small motivator that helps you take a first step in a new direction. When you see them for what they really are, they lose some of their power to make you feel guilty or less than. Find a resolution that can benefit you, and your new year will be off to a good start. Or, you can always take the opposite approach and make a resolution to give up resolutions. We like the first option. Small shifts can make big changes in your world, even if it’s just internally.