Resolutions Are Bull**it. Pick A Word Instead.
You don’t have to feel like a failure by Feb.
In case you didn’t guess from the headline, I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions.
Of course, there is something extremely tantalizing about the idea that come the new year, you can transform into a new you. The idea that as of January 1st we can instantly become better (read: thinner, healthier, kinder, fitter, more productive, more energized, better at work, more disciplined, less addicted to sugar and no longer partial to a sneaky ciggy after a few glasses of wine because clearly you won’t even be drinking wine in the first place) is incredibly alluring to the average punter. You’d be a fool to not at least give it a go.
However, studies have shown that only eight percent of people actually manage to keep their resolutions, meaning that 92 percent of people will make an overly optimistic (read: unattainable and ridiculous) assessment of how they will behave at the beginning of the new year.
After a few years of setting New Year’s resolutions, I soon figured out that they were never anything more than an ineffective and oft embarrassing declaration that I had no framework to see through once I actually figured out how hard it was going to be.
(I remember once setting a resolution to lose one kilo every week when I was about 14. It didn’t end well.)
So, I gave up the practice altogether. That was, until I listened to a podcast about picking a word of the year.
I listened with a healthy amount of cynicism, but as the person described how it works, it began to make more and more sense.
Basically, you pick a word (or phrase. Or multiple words, if that takes your fancy) that is kind of a symbol of what you want to achieve or change in the new year.
During the year, when you need to decide something, and you aren’t quite sure what to do, you come back to that original word. Kind of like a filter.
For example, if you wanted to lose weight, get fit, tone up etc in the new year, you might pick the word ‘healthy.’
Then, when you get an unexpectedly mild winter’s day and you can’t decide whether to walk home or catch the train, you run the decision through the lens of your word. Which is healthier? Then you decide what feels healthier to you, and pick that one.
This would also work for mental health, wellbeing, exercise, eating habits etc.
Take another word -- 'listen', perhaps. You could be setting an intention to listen to your friends and family more often, so you might decide to leave your phone in your handbag instead of putting it on the table when you meet someone for coffee. Or you might be wanting to listen more to the cues your body and mind are giving you.
Resolutions are often framed in absolutes (I will get up at 6am and work out for half an hour every day) and in negatives (I need to do this to lose weight because I am not pretty/skinny/fit enough). Moreover, the focus on the desired outcome often means we overlook the process it will take to get there and fail to assess whether it is realistic for us to achieve.
Imagine what it feels like to get to February and discover that not only have you not lost your allotted five kilos, but you’ve gained two on account of all the sugar you aren’t meant to be eating but you do anyway because chocolate is so f**king good?
It is disheartening, frustrating and futile, and ultimately causes the majority of us to throw the towel in.
I have been picking a word of the year for close to four years now and it has never let me down.
Because there are no absolute landmarks, I can’t fail. I can be flexible, things can change, and I can make allowances for all the things that come with life.
Now when I look back at the year, it is so easy to see how the intention has filtered through, and ultimately delivered me into the new year as a better person who is closer to achieving, or who has achieved, her goals.
What’s even better is that throughout the year when tough, difficult or unexpected decisions come up, I have something I know I believe in to filter them through. You grow to become familiar with your word, and it is kind of comforting, in a sense, to know you have something to go back to when you aren’t quite sure.
So, why not give it a go? Have a think about where you are now, where you would like to be in twelve months, and what words or phrases could help guide you closer. My word for next year is happy- what will yours be?