Even if you're not one for making New Year's Resolutions, we can all still acknowledge that the beginning of the calendar year serves as an important reminder that time is indeed passing. And this, I think, is a good thing. It motivates people to make changes, and to put serious thought and effort into how they can live a happier, more fulfilled existence for themselves, and for the people around them.
However, I want to suggest we use the beginning of 2017 to look at our resolutions—or ultimately, our life goals—differently. Rather than being a catalyst for considering grandiose lifestyle overhauls (think: "I'm going to lose weight and finally find time to exercise everyday, forever!"), use the first of the year to take a personal inventory of your current situation.
And: don't just mull this around in your mind: get out a pen, and put this down on paper.
It's easy to start with listing the areas of our lives that we want to be different, or that we aren't happy with. For this method to be successful, though, we need to begin by pinpointing the things in our lives we feel good about.
Create a list of what you are currently happy about in your life, however big or small, tangible or abstract. Maybe you've been consistently hitting your targets at work, mastered the art of throwing a killer dinner party, or chose a gorgeous color for your cabinets after spending way too much time looking at paint swatches.
Have you realized you've become a better listener this year? Or that you stuck with your barre class even though it is much, much harder than you thought it was going to be?
As you review this list, ask yourself: what do these things have in common? Why was I successful at seeing these things through?
What motivates you? Why do you care?
Next, jot down the goals you hope to achieve in 2017. As you review this list, ask yourself, why do I want these things? Are the motivations similar to those you identified in your first list? If not, how do they differ? And do these motivations align with the person you truly are, deep down, stripped of habits, good or bad?
It's too simple to want things to be different, and all too easy to lose sight of what gives us joy and feelings of self-worth—of what inspires us to pour our heart, souls, energy, and effort into something.
Thinking too much about what's out of our control can be overwhelming and can feed into our vices. By focusing on what actually makes us feel fulfilled and excited are we able to make resolutions we're able to keep.
The habits I've vowed to form this year represent a maturity I want to embody at this point of my life. (I'm in my mid-20s.) Quitting smoking and establishing a regular gym routine aren't my resolutions because I know smoking is bad, and going to the gym is good, and that I'm supposed to be 'healthy.' I'm driven to sit in the discomfort of nicotine withdrawal and waking up early to work out more often because I'm motivated to be more like the person I've always wanted to be at this age.
Change is best nurtured by respecting the process of acceptance. So this New Year, simplify your mentality by realizing what inspires you to try hard to do things differently, and perhaps you'll see those resolutions through. I think that you will.