Rethinking New Year’s Resolutions

This week I’m giving presentations about New Year’s resolutions. And as so often happens, I realize that the lessons my students are working through are still important for adults too. Creating this lesson helped me reflect on and articulate what I’ve learned about New Year’s resolutions, why I don’t do them, and what I do instead. 

What percentage of New Year’s resolutions do you think people keep? 8%, 17%, or 2%?

While, so far, most students voted for 2% (not amongst optimists I see) the answer is actually 8%. This tells you some things about New Year’s resolutions… Worse yet, 80% of people have given up on their resolution by February. 

I have always loved New Year’s resolutions and really any symbolic ‘start fresh’ idea. I’m inspired by new months, new years, and new opportunities. So these statistics do not bring me down. Instead, they make me question the structure of the New Year’s resolution entirely. If you can’t beat the system, change the system eh?

Because of this I’ve shifted from ambitious (read vague) New Year’s resolutions like ‘drink more water’ and ‘do yoga’ to specific and manageable goals broken down into much smaller time frames. Even changing something for one week inspires reflection and teaches you something about yourself. I didn’t intend to give up social media, but I decided to take a one week break. During that week I felt more peace and presence in my own life so the change stuck.  

The task for my students is to set a goal for January. We are almost halfway through so really, quite manageable. 

They need to answer the questions: What is your January goal? And how will you do it? Here is my example for them…

Would I like this to be habit-forming and continue well beyond January? Yes. Am I worrying about that right now? No. Would I like to add ‘drink more water’ and ‘do yoga 3 times a week’ and five other goals to my January goals? Yes. But am I starting small instead? Also yes (pat on the back).

You get the point. 

So I guess I am rejecting the New Year’s resolution message, and kind of just societal message, that we need to change who we are and *constantly* be improving ourselves. We are also allowed to just enjoy being ourselves. 🌻

Keeping my clothes put away has brought me more peace. I no longer rush around looking for jackets and sweaters in a heap on the floor and feel more relaxed when I wake up to a clean room. 

If it would add to your life right now, I invite you to think of something small that will bring you a bit more peace, hope or joy yet this January. Make a plan and check in with someone about it, that someone can be you! I’d love if you left a comment or sent me an email at sharing your goal. 


5 thoughts on “Rethinking New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Yes! Make goals small, specific, and in front of your face! I do goals for the year (and sometimes for the week). This year is to journal 4/7 days a week

  2. I love this! I’m with you on breaking up goals into small, actionable steps. One thing that I’ve also found helpful when it comes to making changes is to rethink the way you frame them. For example, I’m booking Valentine’s Day boudoir sessions, so instead of saying “I want to book 10 and I hope I’ll do it and actually make a profit,” I have written on my bulletin/vision board “I WILL book 10 V-day boudoir sessions and net (at least) $5k total.” I’m essentially manifesting it into existence. Once it exists on my vision board (where, as an added bonus, I see it regularly), it exists in the world. Now all I have to do is work hard, market the heck out of those sessions, and I’ll achieve my goal. 🙂

    Great post, Emma. Thank you.

    1. Nice Kerry! I like the idea of a vision board. I’ve started a little notebook that I open for inspirations, but a vision board is a great visual for goals and dreams.

  3. Thanks for the inspiration! I’m going to do that with dishes. Over the holidays (and really it’s been a downward trend since COVID) we’ve gotten a little lax about putting all the dishes away at night to start with a clean kitchen in the morning. I wake up to a couple of wine glasses on the coffee table, or the empty dish of ice cream, or the casserole dish that needed to soak overnight instead of the 3 hours it already had been soaking. What I really wanted to post was that I’m going to keep everything put away all the time, but I will commit to starting small in order to be successful. 🙂

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