Forget New Year’s Resolutions

It is not just the end of the year; it is the end of a decade. And not just any decade – the end of the “aughts “ – the first decade of the new millennium. And so what? On one hand, time is a made up concept. On the other hand, it helps us to keep life from going by in a big blur. It helps us to mark special occasions. And the observance of the New Year, in this case, the new decade, helps us to stop for a moment, take stock and re-new our commitments to what we say is most important to us. So, yes, it is time once again for the dreaded New Year’s Resolutions. Except, I hate New Year’s Resolutions. They don’t work and we end up failing to reach all of our freshly minted goals (not to mention the old and stale ones) and feeling even worse than before. But there is a strong impulse to do something, make a change, use the ‘new year’ energy to jump start us toward a fresh start. OK. Fine. Far be it for me to stand in the way of the new you. Just please, forget resolutions. If you really have to do something, try just one doing one thing. One. Single. Thing. Here’s how it works:

1. Think about all of the things you want to be different in your life i.e.: I want a cleaner house, I want to be thinner, I want to take more pleasure in my children, I want to be a better friend.. Then

2. Make a list of all of the things that you could START doing that would make a big difference in your quality of life – make sure each thing is a specific action that can be measured i.e.: go to gym 3x a week, vs. get in shape.

3. Make a list of all of the things that you could STOP doing that would make a big difference in your quality of life – remember this is one thing, so if you want to cut down your smoking, you might stop smoking in your car vs. stop smoking completely.

4. Choose one item from the lists (not one thing from each list, I mean one thing from either list) that feels do-able right now. Make sure it really feels like something you can do. Something you actually really want to do. Something you can see yourself doing.

5. Then, do one thing. Starting now.

I do this every year, and now it is just fun. The last ten years:

• I started to remove all garbage, and anything that doesn’t need to stay in the car from my car every day when I get home from work. I make the kids take their garbage when they get out of the car, because I have gotten so used to having a nice clean car. I started this one a few years ago and it has vastly increased my quality of life.

• I started making fresh vegetable juice every morning for my husband and myself. My sister got me on this kick , and this was tough one to implement, but it feels great to know that we are getting our kale everyday!

• I stopped ordering desert. I don’t care for most deserts, so it wasn’t that hard. I can have a bite if someone else orders something appealing.

• I stopped drinking diet soda.

• I stopped accepting the little bowls of hot nuts they offer you on American Airlines business class. Yes, 2004 was just hard enough that this was about all I could muster. But, hey, that’s probably 30 or 40 bowls of fat pills I have not eaten.

• One year I wrote a thank you note everyday for 4 months – it really developed my gratitude muscle.

• I stopped standing in line (now the only lines I stand in are travel related, I have found workarounds for just about every other kind of line).

• I started ordering (good) champagne whenever I felt like it. I have been doing this for 10 years. Lucky me.

It adds up – it really does. This year, the one tiny thing I am going to start doing is to spend 10 minutes every Sunday night to look at the gym and yoga studio schedule and put 5 classes on the calendar for the week. I already go to the gym a fair amount, but I found that I tend to do what my calendar tells me. So don’t think about losing weight. Forget your radical new exercise program. Pick one thing. One tiny thing you can either stop or start that will make an appreciable difference in the pleasure and joy you take in life. You may even find yourself looking forward to New Years! Have a wonderful decade!

2 thoughts on “Forget New Year’s Resolutions

  1. A great article.

    Simple easy changes are the ones that stick.

    Another key piece is the support structure and reward structure that people should also think about when creating change.

    One thing I find is that some people I have coached start to save up ideas for resolutions in November and December. Why do this. As soon as you want to change something start doing it.

  2. Thanks for including your round up of ten years, Madeleine. What a wonderful transformation from “one thing!” Really moved by the thank you notes each day.

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