5 alternatives to New Year resolutions

Somehow, the new year is (luckily) just around the corner. After a completely bizarre and unexpected 2020, most of us are happy to welcome in a new beginning. And what better time to take a step back and analyse your goals for the new year? If you’re thinking of setting some New Year’s Resolutions, you might want to think again. Anecdotal evidence tells me that we break 99.9% of our resolutions, so it might be time to try something else this year. If you’re also fed up with the sleep more, read more, lose weight checklist, here are some alternatives you can try.

Word of the year
This option seems to become more popular each year. Rather than setting a specific goal, you choose a word to embody throughout the year. Think along the lines of ‘rest’, ‘growth’, or ‘fun’. You can use this word to help guide you through difficult times, and it can also help you frame decisions. Let’s say you’re very busy with work, and in need of a break, when someone approaches you with yet another project. Usually you’d say yes, but if your word of the year is ‘rest’, you might choose to turn down the project and focus on incorporating more walks in nature into your life instead. This option works well for people who don’t like to be tied down by rigid goals.

In a similar vein, intentions are another way of guiding your year without restricting you too much. Rather than saying you want to lose a certain amount of weight, consider setting the intention to move more, or to do something daily that makes you feel good. You might even find that the outcome is the same – you end up losing weight – but it’s not the primary motivator. This removes some of the pressure that comes with resolutions, and makes it more likely that you’ll actually stick with it past the first week of January.

S.M.A.R.T. goals
If you’re driven by structure, you might find that S.M.A.R.T. goals work well for you. For a goal to fit the S.M.A.R.T. criteria, it should be Specific (not just ‘get fit, but rather ‘be able to run 10km’) and Measurable (not ‘get richer’, but rather ‘earn an extra £30,000’). It should also be Attainable (so, not ‘become a billionaire in 2021’ sadly), Relevant to your life, and Timely, ie you assign deadlines to your goal.

2021 Bucket List
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life is totally unpredictable. For that reason, you might find a bucket list pointless, but if you like to look on the optimistic side of life, go ahead. You don’t have to include outlandish tasks like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or trekking through South America. Consider things a little closer to home, like a road trip, training to run a certain distance, or learning a new skill. We might not be able to plan perfectly, but we can make the most out of a difficult situation, no matter what happens with the pandemic.

Monthly challenges
If you don’t like looking ahead for a whole year, consider setting monthly challenges. These bite-sized alternatives are easy to stick to, because you know you’ve only got to keep it up for 30 days. The added benefit? It takes 21 days to form a habit, so you might just find yourself naturally sticking to your new routine once the month is over. In the past, people have tried reading for 30 minutes per day for a month, exercising 5 days per week, spending 10 minutes daily on a language learning app, or going to bed at 10pm each night. Sounds simple, but often the best habits are the ones that don’t seem like rocket science.

At the end of the day, no one knows what 2021 will bring. All we can do is focus on what we want to achieve for ourselves, and what will make us happy in the upcoming 12 months. There’s no need to burden ourselves with unnecessary and unwanted pressure, either. That’s the danger of resolutions in the traditional form – we end up feeling awful for ‘failing’ so quickly. Set yourself up for success in 2021 by trying out these alternative forms of resolutions.

Written by Phoebe Dodds