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Happy 2020: New Year, Same You, and That’s OK

The pressure to create a list of ambitious and transformative New Year’s resolutions can become a veiled exercise in self-flagellation. Maybe there are things we wish we had accomplished by this point in our life. We put them on the list! Maybe there are things we feel we should have accomplished by this point in our life, whether we actually wish to do them or not. We put these on the list, too. And then there are the external factors: our socioeconomic cohort—what they’re up to, what they have, what they want. How our families expect us to behave. Our spouses, our children. This is how it can come to be that many of us start the year with self-imposed expectations that have almost no relationship to what we really want and who we really are.

But there is another way. Because truly there is a value in reflecting, in taking stock, and in setting goals, and there is nothing wrong with doing that in the context of the Julian New Year. It is just that we must approach the exercise with realism, self-compassion, and self-knowledge. Here are a few tips for keeping your New Year’s resolutions empowering, positive, and aligned with what really matters to you.

Start with Priorities

Make a list of the things, people, and, most importantly, values you hold most high. This list will look different for everyone, so there is no right and wrong—it just has to reflect you. For my younger sister, the list might read: Prestige, Love, Home, Pets, Family, Passion, Having a Child. For me, the list would be a little different: Professional Fulfillment, Humor, Charity, Freedom, Adventure, Novelty, Curiosity, Environmental Consciousness. There is no limit to how long the list can be or how you frame it. Brainstorm, let your mind explore, and flesh out all the things that make you you.

Get Specific

For each priority on your list, try setting a goal for the year. For example, under “Prestige,” the goal might be “Study for and Pass Board Certification Program.” Or for Environmental Consciousness, you might target “Buy carbon offsets for all air travel.” Goals should be “SMART” – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. As long as you follow that general guideline—especially the “attainable” element—you should be well on your way to setting a target you can actually hit.

Dream Big

After setting SMART goals in line with your priorities, create a Dreams section for things that you wish for on a magical, child-like plane untethered by reason. Although this seems counterintuitive to the previous section, it’s not—these are dreams, not resolutions. But the subconscious mind is powerful, and when you put it to work it can show up for you in ways your rational mind could never have imagined. Allow the deep recesses of your being to process the stuff of your wildest dreams and see what happens. This is the stuff of miracle and wonder.

Plan to Check In

Get out your planner, Bullet Journal, or whatever you use to keep track of your life and set an appointment at the end of each quarter of the year. These are opportunities to take stock of what you’ve done so far, what needs more attention, and even what you might want to let go. For example, perhaps you’ve identified World Travel as a priority but realize that goal is butting up against something even more important to you this year: Charity. It’s OK to cross World Travel off the list and consider focusing on it next year, in the future, or never. Priorities can and do change. That’s ok, too.

Love Yourself

It doesn’t matter if you accomplish everything on your list or nothing. If you treat yourself with the love and compassion you would offer a child or a dear friend, you create space for things to happen when they’re ready to happen—not at gunpoint, not at the stroke of midnight, but with love and time, the two ingredients that heal everything.