Five alternatives to New Year’s resolutions: Don’t set yourself up for failure


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Cierra Noffke, Culture Editor

Every year, we come out of winter hibernation to set New Year’s resolutions designed to power us through the new year.

The year 2020 brought magnificent ruin and fatality, beyond what any of us were prepared to handle. It’s no wonder so many people are looking forward to the close of that chapter and the chance to begin anew.

The most common New Year’s resolutions are aimed at self-improvement and usually involve shedding winter weight, traveling and exploring, or getting a solid fitness plan.

If you’re one of the many who’ve set a resolution or goal for 2021 a week ago but you’ve not yet magically transformed into the person of your dreams—it’s okay. Neither has anyone else.

Most people forget about their New Year’s resolutions by the second week. By February, they’re either a distant memory or a source of deep shame. Although resolutions themselves aren’t unhealthy, the self-imposing, unrealistic and vaguely defined goals we set for ourselves are.

The real problem with resolutions and similar set goals is that they’re usually end goals—they focus on the result instead of the path we take to get there. Beyond that, they’re usually achievements we think we should attain to, but not always what we really want or need.

Here are some healthy alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions that are health and process focused. This has been a tough year. Don’t spend the next one fighting internally about getting in shape.


Pick a word for the year

Choose a word to be your mantra for the year. Consider what you’d like more or less of in the new year and how you’d like to feel at the end of it. Think carefully about your responses and write down the first words or phrases that come to mind. Don’t overthink it. Hone your responses into a single word. Some examples are ‘endurance,’ ‘peace,’ or ‘grace.’

Do a 365-day project

Pick up a creative project, like taking a picture of the sunset every day of the year or take up a photo journal. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a project you’ll enjoy and one that’s realistic enough for you to enact. And don’t stress if you miss a day.

Make a reading list

If you’d like to read more or just improve your memory, concentration, or vocabulary make a reading list for the year. Make a list of the books you’ve always wanted to read; some books related to your hobbies or subjects you feel you’d like to have more education in. Don’t get too crazy and overwhelm yourself: pick at least 10 books but definitely no more than 40.

Make a list of things/events to look forward to

It seems trivial but physically writing down the events or prospects of the New Year could actually help you enjoy it. If there are upcoming birthdays, trips, vacations, or even near coffee dates. Buy a calendar if you don’t already have one and fill it up.

Follow a monthly 30-day challenge

If you’re earnest about fitness but you’re not sure how to get started, a 30-day challenge is definitely a good start. Setting small goals that change overtime help you to refine a skill. You can build endurance, flexibility and strength. Even exercising for 10-15 minutes a day for 30 days straight will help. The key lies in moderation, not extremity. Of course, 30-day challenges aren’t just for fitness. You could do a social media detox, go vegan, or revamp your closet.