For many of us, 2016 was the equivalent of getting hit by a large bus.
We lost David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Umberto Eco, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Elie Weisel, Gwen Ifill, Carrie Fisher, and an impossibly long list of other inspirational human beings. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Countless lives were lost in Aleppo.
Then there were the Oakland fires, the terrorist attacks in Nice, Orlando, Brussels…there’s more than I can list here, but you were there. You get it. This year was rough.
The silver lining of all of this tragedy and upset is that it has given us a collective wakeup call. Life as we know it isn’t guaranteed, and our ability to control what happens is limited at best. This might not seem like a silver lining, but it can be if it motivates us to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. No one is coming—no one is going to rescue us. You’re it. I’m it. This is it. Life is happening with or without us, and we have to rescue ourselves.
This makes the practice of making New Year’s resolutions a little more meaningful than usual. We have the opportunity to be the proverbial phoenixes rising from the ashes, and if we all take ownership of our own little sphere of influence, the ripple effects will be huge.
Unfortunately, these days New Year’s resolutions get a bad wrap. Sure, there are some of us who are so encouraged by the hope of a new beginning on January 1st, we actually fulfill our resolutions. For most of us, however, we start the new year with enthusiasm, but failure after failure fills our reservoirs of cynicism. We give up, deciding that our New Year’s resolutions are a lost cause.
I’ve been on both sides, and I have certainly had my fair share of disenchantment with the tradition. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve resolved to lose 10 pounds, become a morning person, journal every day, or learn a new language, I’d have about $25.
Despite my inability to turn every resolution into a result in the past, I still make them. Here’s why: I realized that I was doing it wrong. First of all, my resolutions weren’t based on what I really wanted for my life; I was creating them based on what I thought I should want for my life. They weren’t the result of being inspired, they were made after seeing a a fatefully timed weight-loss commercial after flipping through a Victoria’s Secret catalog.
Secondly, I wasn’t holding myself accountable. I wrote my resolutions down on December 31st, and then stowed them away in a journal on the shelf, not to be seen again until I picked it up weeks later to do some of that journaling I was so “resolved” to do. It’s no surprise that I wasn’t successful given those conditions.
If we genuinely want to turn this thing around after everything that went down in 2016, it’s going to take something new.
Here are five tips that will give us a fighting chance of creating some positive shifts in the world, and ushering in a new experience of our lives in 2017:
1. Don’t Make Bullsh*t Resolutions: I hate to break it to you, but losing 10 pounds is a bullsh*t resolution. Sorry, it just is. Look, I’ve certainly done it before, but part of what makes resolutions difficult to keep is that they’re not inspiring.
Fitting into my skinny jeans isn’t inspiring, and it’s certainly not worth dedicating a whole year to. We need to look for bigger goals. What is something worthy of focusing on for an entire year? What happened in 2016 that made you see a need for a real shift in the world? What is going to make a lasting difference in the quality of your life, and the lives of others? What are you truly passionate about?
These are just places to start looking, but I can tell you, if you’re not truly lit up by something you’ve written down on your list, it’s a bullsh*t resolution, and it doesn’t belong there. Think big. If it scares you a little, good. Most things worthy of our time and effort will scare us at first.
2. Share Your Resolutions With as Many People as Possible: Social accountability is a huge motivating force, and we would be remiss not to use it to our advantage here. When we share what we want to accomplish with the people closest to us, it makes it more real. The more people we share it with, the more real it becomes. If your resolutions are more personal, and you don’t feel comfortable shouting them from the rooftops, share with a few trusted friends or family members. Regardless, if we keep them to ourselves, we’re much less likely to make them a reality.
If you really want to go big, enlist the people around you to help you. Build something together. Start a movement. Why not?! Remember, no one is coming. If you don’t, who will?
3. Keep Your Resolutions Visible: A key reason that resolutions don’t get fulfilled is that we forget about them. Place your list on a Post-it note someplace where you’ll see it every day. Create a vision board that you’ll see first thing when you wake up in the morning. Take a screenshot of your list, and make it the wallpaper on your phone. Keeping those resolutions fresh on our minds will help us stay focused.
Also, bear in mind that human beings are really great at filtering out things that we see all the time. Move around those Post-its, move the list from your phone wallpaper to your computer screensaver. The more we change things up, the more difficult they are to overlook.
4. Schedule Time to Work on Your Resolutions: Just like everything else, fulfilling our New Year’s resolutions has to take place at some point in time. They won’t just magically get done. I wish there were resolution gnomes that would do them for us in the middle of the night, but alas…it’s up to us.
Take out your calendar, and start writing down milestones. Carve out blocks of time to work on your projects. This brings those goals to life, and makes them tangible. This is a great time to use social accountability as well. Tell your spouse, family, co-workers, etc., that you’ll be busy or unavailable during those times, so that they know what you’re up to. You may even find that by being organized, and following through on your goals, you inspire them to do the same.
5. Don’t Give up Just Because You Break a Resolution: There’s a decent chance we’ll slip up a time or two. And many of us quit after one or two slips. That would be like a baby giving up on walking just because she fell down a couple of times. Keep working at it. Keep falling down. Just don’t give up.
These tips are useful for creating and meeting goals at any time of year, but if you are inspired by the new year, use that momentum! If we put these structures in place, they’ll help us keep that momentum going all year. The world needs us. Let’s get to it.
Happy New Year!
Author: Iris McAlpin
Image: YouTube still
Editor: Travis May