I’m a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. I’ve made them every year since I can remember. I like the idea that by writing something down and focusing my efforts, I can achieve something that otherwise I wouldn’t have.
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I know not everyone thinks this way or feels the same excitement. For some, the changing of the years is nothing more than a flip of the calendar. For others, New Year’s resolutions fill them with dread. If done the wrong way, New Year’s resolutions can feel like placing stifling restrictions and burdens on our lives. They can be a looming list of ‘to-dos’, ‘shoulds’, and rules that increase your feelings of overwhelm. In short, they can be just hard work.
A different approach
I don’t think New Year’s resolutions should be a list that fills us with dread every time we look at it, making us feel guilty for every cent we spend or bite of cake we put in our mouths throughout the year.
At the end of 2017 I read an article that changed the way I approached these resolutions. It was called ‘The joys of an early bucket list’. As the title indicates, the author recommends writing a list of all the things you want to do over the coming year instead. As she writes, “Rather than writing yourself a list of New Year’s resolutions that are supposed to make you a better person but will really only add to the things you have to do each day, maybe write yourself a list of things you’d like to do.”
I took the advice to heart and wrote my bucket list of things I really wanted to do in 2018. The resolutions on my list made me excited and gave me energy. Thanks to my, I did a pottery course, learned some new songs on the piano, did lots of ocean swimming, qualified as a Toolbox facilitator, read 22 books, and started writing for this website this year! If you’d like to try this approach in the new year, here are some ideas from my experience.
Bucket list tips
Don’t crowd the list.
Be real with how much you can achieve. Even if you have two things on the list because that’s all you can realistically do, that’s way better than writing 20 things that you’ll never be able to do.
Do think about why you want to make an addition to your list
I’d written the same four self-improvement books on my to-read list of resolutions every year for the past three years because I thought I read them, not because I wanted to read them to know more about what was inside them. Once I identified why they were on my list, I was much more motivated – and this year, I’ve polished off two of them.
Don’t write things on your list based on what others want you to do
Write things that you want to do. You’re way more likely to achieve them this way. If your thoughts about your resolution start with, “I should really do XYZ,” you may want to re-think.
Do use the SMART guidelines
Make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. You want to get to the end of the year and easily know whether you’ve achieved your resolutions or not. Also, it’s always more exciting to add rather than subtract. In other words, do more of something rather than less. Instead of ‘spend less time watching TV or ‘drink less alcohol’, how about ‘go for two walks a week’ or ‘eat veges with every dinner’?
Do think about your hauora – your holistic health
Visualise your health like a four-legged chair – it balances on mental, physical, social, and spiritual foundations. Do you tend to focus more naturally towards one or more of these legs? If so, maybe you’d like to to focus on one that you tend to neglect.
New Year’s resolutions for children
If you have small children, write a bucket list for them, or of things for you to do with them. Doesn’t a ‘list of fun things we’re going to do’ sound a great way to approach a year?
Older children will likely be familiar with the concept of goal-setting from their schoolwork. A bucket list at home could be an opportunity to introduce them to the lighter, more fun side of goal-setting – goals aren’t just for serious, academic achievements!
New Year’s resolutions as a new parent
When your world goes from being all about me to being all about a new little person, it’s easy to lose yourself. It’s easy to put your own health, happiness and wellbeing on the back-burner ‘until I have more time’. I speak from experience here. Being a parent doesn’t mean that we need to abandon our life goals and quit making new year’s resolutions, but it does mean that our expectations may have to change. If I have less time and less disposable income, it’s an opportunity to really refine what it is I really enjoy and want to do, and to make those things a priority.
In the year after I had a baby, my exercise-based New Year’s resolutions were less ‘go to the gym four times a week’ and more ‘get outside once a day’. They were less about outward success and more about personal fulfilment and enjoyment.
If you’re looking for a fresh approach to New Year’s resolutions this year, give a bucket list a go. The memories you make and feelings of achievement you create for yourself could be a highlight of your year.