This New Years, Create Habits Not Resolutions
Millions of us are used to starting every year with a miserable ritual. We set ourselves vague goals for huge changes without giving ourselves the means to obtain them. Then we feel guilty when we don’t succeed. We feel like a failure for not losing weight or reading a book a day or meditating each morning. Rather than being an way of creating the empowering changes that we feel like we need in our lives, New Years Resolutions are made for us to fail, and make us feel terrible when we do.
That’s why for 2021, I won’t be making any resolutions. 2020 was too awful for me to want to put myself through another failure. Instead, I am setting out 12 habits that I will add in to my life, month by month. Since it takes 30 days to create a habit, this seems like a perfect plan to create real change. By the time I introduce the next habit, the former one will be an integrated part of my lifestyle. I will try and connect each habit to the last, so as to build on preexisting habits.
While a resolution is an end, a habit is a means. Focusing on what you actually need to do consistently to reach your goal is far more productive than obsessing over your end goal. You need to bear your intention in mind, of course, but without knowing the concrete steps towards reaching it, that goal can only ever remain a wish.
Habits can be small or huge, but they always generate real change because what defines a habit is consistency. Even something as simple as drinking a glass of water every morning when you wake up will have a huge impact on how you feel. Your mind will be sharper, you will be more awake, your skin will be clearer, you will be more conscious of your feelings of hunger and satiety. While a huge resolution might lead you to a one-off successful day, and then many more days when you feel inadequate, a habit is a daily success. You can reinforce the feelings of gratification by making a habit tracker — either on a bullet journal or on an app.
So how do decide what habits you want to introduce into your life?
First, sit down and think about what your intent for the next year is. What is the overriding theme of change you would like to see? Here are a few examples, but there are many more options:
I would like to improve my mental and/or physical health
I would like to spend more time on my hobbies
I want to have a greater sense of control over life
I want to be more social
I would love to launch my non-profit organisation before the end of 2021.
Now that you have decided on your most important intention for next year, take a piece of paper, divide it in two, and write on one side the problems holding you back, and on the other, positive steps that would bring you closer to your intent.
I’m too tired to be as productive as I would like
I don’t meet enough new people
I would love to cook healthy, tasty food
I want to start kayaking
Take your problems and your positives, and form them into actual, concrete habits.
I will go to a meetup event once a week.
I will pack a healthy lunch every day.
You may now have more than twelve. Read over your ideas, decide which are the most important to you. Think of how they fit together — can you do after or during another? This will help you build on each habit to integrate the next, a useful tool for success. You could listen to educational podcasts while you prepare a meal. Or add a relaxing self-care bubble bath after a morning run. Once you’ve thought about how each habit can me latched onto the one before, write out a list of 12 habits, and alongside them, the month.
You’re ready to go!
Just remember to treat yourself with kindness, it takes time to change your lifestyle especially considering all the external factors at play. Take it slowly. If you feel like one of your habits is too much, adapt it. Make it smaller. Consistency is what matters, not scale.
And always remember, these changes are about empowering yourself, not blaming yourself. Our society pushes us to make unhealthy choices, and inequalities make it harder for some people to change them. It’s not all on you. You’re not sick. Society is sick. Some changes should be coming from outside, and the reason we are having to make changes on our end is that they are too slow in coming.
Think deeply about the things you would like to change and whether they are really going to make you feel more authentically yourself. Don’t change because you think that is how you should be but because it is how you would enjoy being.
On that note, I wish you all a Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a better one than the last.