New Year, New You?

A new year is here, ready or not. Some of us may be welcoming the opportunity for a reset, while others may not feel ready. The new year can bring with it the weight of expectation…for a new and improved you, they say…for goal crushing, they say. Wait, who is they? And, was there something wrong with the old me?

I’m particularly reflective on the concept of resolutions, not only due to the time of the year, but because of my profession as an organizer. Two common resolutions people have include getting in shape and getting organized. Yet, the vast majority of resolutions made are broken by February. As one small cog in a much larger wheel within the organizing space, I can only do so much. But, I do feel compelled to play a part in encouraging a mindset that will set you up for, not a new you (the current one is pretty great), but one that feels capable of making progress in your life – in whatever area you feel compelled to focus on.

calendar depicting a year for new years resolutions

Progress is always a worthy endeavor. There are many schools of thought on the “right” way to express these desires…Resolutions? Goals? Intentions? Words of the year? I don’t know that it matters all that much, as long as it’s authentic to you and is an honest reflection of what you are looking to accomplish.

Yet, there are are ways to frame up your desired growth that set you up for success, and other ways to avoid – ways that lead to discouragement and throwing in the towel. Though I’m not an expert in the new year’s resolution space, I have noticed parallels between what trips people up in terms of desired progress on their organization journeys, and what trips people up regarding progress on a bigger scale.

Here are 5 tips to help you kick off the new year on the right foot.

1. Be clear what you actually desire vs. what you think you should desire.

Many people have new year’s goals that are financial or business growth focused. But, if you feel more of a tug toward something else – even something that may appear frivolous or not as “productive”, listen to that voice. Who cares that someone has a goal to build their business to a certain level? That’s great for them, but your focus on things like being a more joyful or present parent, for example, may not be what the world appears to value, but may be more in line with what you value. And, thank goodness, you get to define what matters to you.

2. Beware of right goal, wrong time.

If you are currently in a season of a demanding work or travel schedule, caring for a newborn and other kiddos, health or relationship challenges, etc., this may not be the best time to pursue large bucket list items – ones that may take a great deal of time, focus, dedication. You don’t want to set yourself up for burnout or feeling inadequate. Neither of these things is welcome in your mindset and life for this year.

Choose something that fits where you are now. If you’re crunched for time, avoid a goal that requires additive time, such as finding an additional 60 minutes to get to the gym. Focus elsewhere, such as selecting a topic you want to learn more about, and listen to a 20 minute podcast daily while you’re doing other things like household tasks or running errands.

3. Identify your end goal AND daily habits

Does the following sound familiar…You’re excited! You’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano and THIS is the year it’s going to happen! In January, your end goal felt soooo far away…12 whole months to achieve this? Great! You’ll get around to starting soon. Before you know it, it’s April and you’ve been busy with other things. But, next month, you’re convinced, you’ll carve out time to acquire this new skill. There are still 8 months left – plenty of time! Soon it’s Oct. and you start to question everything…maybe I can’t do it, maybe it was the wrong goal, maybe I can never do it. You’re discouraged.

What’s the issue? You identified your end goal, but neglected to identify and employ regular consistent habits that set you up to achieve your end goal. The end goal was fine, you just need to SCHEDULE IN (just like important appointments) regular practice sessions of, say, 15 minutes per day. It all adds up! 15 minutes a day is over 90 hours a year, certainly enough to learn a new skill!

big goals are achieved one step at a time

4. Language and mindset matters.

Instead of saying someday you’ll be a runner, for example, start identifying yourself as a runner now. You’ll be more likely to think and act out from that identity. You can still identify as a runner without being an Olympian! Kick the comparison game to the curb. It doesn’t matter that your run may be alternating between a slow jog and a walk. Progress is progress.

5. Employ habit stacking.

I love this concept. It’s simply pairing a desired new habit with a current habit. For example, if you’re working on flossing consistently, put the floss next to your toothbrush. When you brush your teeth, you’ll see the floss and start to make a habit of flossing after you brush.

Last year, I started the habit of a daily walk. Now that I’m accustomed to that, I’m stacking on to that habit with a new habit of doing some exercises when I get home. Following through becomes easier because I’m already wearing workout clothes from the walk, and I’m in active mode already.

Also, in 2022 I had a daily goal to read 2 pages of a particular lengthy book. A mere 2 pages per day taking approx. 10 min. was enough for me to finish the book! Since I already have the habit of daily reading, I simply swapped the book out with another one for 2023, taking advantage of my existing habit, without needing to find any additional time in my day. What habits do you want to start this year?

This is achievable for everyone! No goal is too small. You have what you need to make the most out of the year. You can, concurrently, hold the belief that you are enough now, while also looking to explore new interests or progress in specific areas. Let’s make it a great one!

Approaching the New Year…

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Or, perhaps you choose a word, an intention or a focus area. This year, my guess is that many people are happy to leave 2020 behind. Yet, it’s a particularly appropriate time to not just kick 2020 to the curb, but to reflect on it. What did you learn that you want to apply to the following year? How did your priorities shift, or solidify? What did you gain greater clarity around?

Here are some thoughts to guide how we can approach our intentions for the new year.

1.Write it down.

There’s so much research supporting the fact that when you write down a goal, you increase the likelihood of achieving the goal. It adds to a feeling of accountability, too, so break out that planner, your phone, a notebook – whatever you have. If it’s on paper, consider posting it somewhere that is visible. This helps to remind us of the commitment we’re making!

writing new year's resolutions down

2. Be specific.

Do you want to “get better at X skill”? Expressed in that way, it isn’t specific, so who knows if it’ll happen?! If, on the other hand, you specifically call out “taking one virtual conference/quarter on the topic of communication”, you WILL get better at communication! That will be the by-product of your intentional, specific steps and focus in that area.

new year's inspirational note

3. Keep it simple.

Having your sights set on something big and challenging is not inherently bad. But, the trouble with resolutions is that they don’t stick, because they’re often too big to bite off at one time. We can’t gain momentum if we never get started!

Another reason to keep resolutions to a manageable level is because resolutions are often things we’ve struggled to gain traction on in the past. They may be areas that don’t come naturally to us, or things we’ve been unsuccessful at in the past. Because of this, we need to be extra kind to ourselves. Keeping it simple means we’ll be more likely to take that first step. We tell ourselves that we really want “that thing” (eating zero sweets all year, for example), but it may not be realistic given where we are today (daily sweets). It becomes a mental barrier that holds us back. Let’s walk before we run.

4. Throw out the rules.

Who says you only can have 1 resolution? Maybe you want to choose 1 thing in each of several categories, such as spirituality, business, parenting, marriage, or self improvement? If you do go for multiple things, though, make sure to keep each of them simple!

5. Put triggers in place.

happy new year sign in blocks

Proactively think about what will help you to keep the focus on what you selected. If you’ve chosen a focus word such as presence, for example, you could put calendar entries on the first of the month for the entire year saying “Reminder – presence” to help you to keep focus on the word. It’s your trigger to think about, and more importantly, take action on your intention.

It’s all too easy for months or even a whole year to fly by, as we get caught up just keeping the wheels on the bus, that we lose sight of what was important to us in the beginning of the year.

6. Consider continuity.

I love the idea of building on a strength, or digging deeper into a concept, year over year. If you like last year’s focus and want to further dive in, go for it! Continue to build on a strength or improve in a certain area, as a thread that connects the previous year to the next one. Whatever your approach, mindset matters, so let’s roll into the new year with an outlook of positivity and an expectation of good.