As a new year begins, many people are drawn to the idea of a fresh start and an opportunity to make new goals that will positively change their lives. While this is a great idea in theory, the research tells us that only about 8% of people actually stick with those goals throughout the year. Though I can appreciate the optimism of New Year’s Resolutions, I also recognize that for many of us, we try to change too much too fast and it is not sustainable.
That unsustainable, big and quick attempt at change can leave people feeling defeated, unproductive or even shameful as they say “well that didn’t work” to the hope of their goal and tell themselves “there is always next year.” The truth is, the desire to change with the fresh start of a new year doesn’t have to feel this way. One way to align your focus in a positive and optimistic way that may hopefully stick around beyond February can be to choose a positive word or mindset to work toward in the year ahead. This can be something that you want to change in a variety of situations such as “balance”, “discipline” or “boundaries.” It can also be a feeling or mood such as “focus”, “peace” or “calm.” Having this word to guide your actions and decisions in the new year rather than a quantitative goal such as “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” or “I am going to read 3 books each month,” gives you room to feel successful, make positive changes and not feel ashamed if you have a rough day or don’t see immediate changes being made.
A few tips as you think about choosing a word or phrase for your new year:
1) Choose something that is meaningful to you; not necessarily something that others will understand. This is a personal journey that doesn’t need broad explanation to others. It is okay if it is only meaningful to you. While you are welcome to share your 2020 word or goal with others, work to reduce other’s input of what your work or phrase should be.
2) It doesn’t have to be permanent. Unlike the idea of a New Year’s Resolution that is quantitative and therefore if you stop working toward it you may feel as though you have “failed,” this idea can be fluid and flexible. You may find that your word or focus changes as the year changes. You can choose to pick a new focus word monthly, quarterly, or as you see fit.
3) Even though they can change, it helps to choose one at a time. Steer clear of multiple focus words at once, such as choosing “focus” and “balance” and “happiness” as you may begin to feel distracted and overwhelmed. Choosing one word can give you the flexibility still to work on all of these aspects of yourself, while not flooding you with “have to’s” and “shoulds.”
4) Give yourself space and time to reflect and use your word or mindset in your life. It is one thing to say “I am going to focus on me this year,” but a different experience in practice. What steps can you take to prioritize you in this next month, six months and year? Would it help to schedule time for yourself? Update your morning or evening routine to allow time for self reflection? Maybe you would benefit from an accountability partner in a friend or co-worker to check in and ask how you are doing? Change, even flexible and fluid change, is hard and thinking through ways to make it work for you can be an important step.
As you embark on the year ahead and work to fill the blank pages of this next chapter in your story, take some time to think about the experience of this year that you would like to look back on in 2021. What changes, behavior, or perspective would you appreciate most as you reflect on the year you just accomplished? What areas of your personality, personal life, work/life balance or mood would you like to strengthen or grow? Thinking through these aspects of your life can help highlight a theme for your 2020 journey and may be a way to find your word that best fits you. Life is beautiful, and your journey is what makes this life. Value yourself, value your time and make this year your best yet.