Every year when the countdown to the new year begins, people around the world start the time-honored tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Gym memberships rises, new hobbies abound, habits are upended. While we, of course, support making healthy goals a reality, a personal resolution might not be the best method to actually achieve a goal.
Less than 10% of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions. We strive to be healthier, better versions of ourselves—an admirable aim—but with that track record, we might be better off looking at options beyond resolutions, which can lead to longer-term success, increased happiness, and improved mental wellness. Better results … better lives.
What Works Better than a New Year’s Resolution?
Rather than plunk all your hopes into a New Year’s resolution, consider crafting a New Year’s goal instead. Resolutions are the big ideas—lose weight, get healthy, learn a new skill. Goals, on the other hand, are how you get to the improvement: the steps you take on your journey to a better life.
How Do I Stick with my Goal?
To increase the likelihood your New Year’s resolution will last past the first month of the year, make your resolution a goal, and make that goal SMART. SMART goals are:
Using these criteria to guide your goal-setting helps make your goal clear and reachable. For more on how to create a health goal, look here.
New Ways to Celebrate the New Year
If you’re searching for how to honor the new year with a new tradition and you’re not interested in a new goal, consider writing a Look-Forward List, developing a self-reflection practice, or composing a letter to yourself. These three rituals can help you on your path to a better life and they don’t come with the pressure and failure rate that New Year’s resolutions have.
To increase your happiness, spend time savoring the anticipation of an experience. You might very well find that you enjoy life more by looking forward to life! Positive psychology research reveals it’s healthy to contemplate good times ahead, and it actually makes living in the present considerably easier. (Likewise, those who suffer from depression often experience a loss of positive anticipation.)
To fully embrace anticipation, take time as the New Year’s ball drops to write a list of what you’re looking forward to in the new year. What’s happening in the coming twelve months that you’re excited about? Big or small, include it all.
Reflect Back on the Year
January 1st is symbolically a new start. For many people, the big, bold resolutions they set cause undue anxiety. Instead, why not slow life down a notch? Rather than look ahead, look back. Consider what the past year has meant to you, pick up a pen, and reflect on questions such as:
- How do I feel about the past year?
- What matters most to me?
- How do I want to be remembered?
- What habits do I have and what habits do I want?
- What are my strengths?
A review of the previous year helps to develop meaning and purpose in our lives. Meaning, or serving something larger than yourself, is a strong motivating factor. Connect with your core values, and let your goals naturally flow from your larger purpose. This gives you lasting motivation to power through the struggles you may experience as you work toward your goal.
Write Yourself a Letter
To combine self-reflection and anticipating experiences, consider a new New Year’s tradition: write yourself a letter on December 31. Go over how the year has been and what you wish for the coming year. Then, next year on January 1, open the letter you wrote yourself a year ago. This ritual gives you a chance to look back and reflect on how your life is going so far. By putting what we want into words and seeing it in concrete form, addressed to ourselves, we connect with our larger purpose and develop meaning in our lives—major sources of happiness, mental well-being, and ultimately a successful life.