4 Alternative New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! 

I’ve actually found that most people I talk to these days have given up on the idea of making New Year’s Resolutions, opting to make fun of those who do, by making fun of the #NewYearNewMe phenomenon, which is probably fair, since you are (hopefully) constantly becoming a new version of yourself, with every new lesson you learn, and every improvement you make, so it is not something relegated to a single day of the year. 

However, I feel that sometimes we need milestones to make us sit down and take stock. These can come in the form of a birthday, the birth of a baby, a funeral or indeed the beginning of a new calendar year.

Personally, I think the most common reason people don’t make new year’s resolutions is something to do with the fact that we know we need a clear, defined goal or rule, and we don’t want to take the time to sit down and go through the process of self-assessment, brainstorming, goal-setting, planning and summarising this all into a clearly defined rule or set of rules that we resolve to stick to for an entire year. In short: We are too lazy.

I also find that people are sick of hearing about the same clichés, which, although valuable, aren’t very actionable, and the fact that they’ve been repeated so many times means that when we read them, we tend to skip over them and not give them much thought.

So, with that said, the aim of this post is to supply some clearly defined resolutions, that are different enough to hopefully make people think, and that just about anyone can stick to and reap the benefits.

1. Tidy Your Room

The discovery of Professor Jordan Peterson (a Canadian professor of psychology and clinical psychologist) and his youtube lectures are something that I can definitely say has changed my life over this past year. 

One of his core messages is “tidy our room”, which not only contains the literal message of making your immediate surrounding better and tidier, but also the metaphorical meaning of focussing on fixing yourself before trying to change the world.

In the literal sense, Peterson talks about how the process of tidying your room can have huge psychological benefits. He says that the stuff that we own is a symbol of what we think is important in the world, and that as we begin to sort through our stuff, we encounter things that we need to deal with in our life, and thus begins the process of “sorting ourselves out”. Amongst our ‘stuff’ might be unpaid bills (that we should pay), clothes that no longer fit us (maybe we’re holding onto them because there’s always a possibility of us getting fat again), half-read books (because we didn’t have the staying power to see it through), socks with holes in them (You deserve better!) and many other things that we need to deal with. We might also find our gym shoes (reminding us we should go to the gym more), pictures of people we should probably reach out to more often, a musical instrument we used to love playing (but don’t make time for any more). The tidying, or sorting out, of our immediate surroundings will bring up a vast array of things we should deal with and improve our life if we do so.

Damn, I wish I listened to my own advice sometimes…

From a metaphorical point of view, we can also take this to mean, “tidy your room” before trying to change the world. We often think things outside of our control are to blame: other people’s attitudes, beliefs and actions, the government, the rich people, sugar companies, sexism, racism, our parents. What if we asked ourselves, “Have I sorted myself out and made myself as good as I can? Have I done everything that I can do to make this problem better?” I would argue that before we’ve at least tried to do this, we shouldn’t spend time trying to change those things that are further outside of our control.

2. Make a Not-To-Do List

I’m not sure where I heard this first, but I think it was probably mentioned on a Tim Ferriss Podcast at some stage, although not specifically in relation to New Year’s resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions are usually consisting of a list of things that you are going to do, and that’s all well and good. But what if we also made a short list of the things we aren’t going to do? Some may say this creates a negative association with our goals, which is fair enough, but I feel that nowadays, we are afraid to look at what we’re going to have to give up or miss out on in order to fulfil our goals.

We might make a goal of “getting into shape” or better yet, “losing 5kg of fat”, so we decide that in order to do that, we need to start going to the gym and eating better, for example. But if we don’t address the fact that we might have to give up part of our social life, or cut out some of the foods we love, it goes unaddressed and we are left to make the decision in the moment, when you have to decide between a night out on the booze, versus a night in the gym and a salad afterwards. If, when setting our goals, we decide from the start that we’re willing to do this, the decision is already made. However, if we’re allowing ourselves to decide in the moment, then who knows what we’ll decide? 

This isn’t to say we can’t have a few beers and still improve body composition, but rather that we will have to make some sacrifices, and defining those sacrifices from the start can help assess if our goal is realistic from the start. 

3. Say “…Just Like Me”, After Criticising Someone.

I downloaded an audiobook last year for £1.99 as part of a promotion Audible was running. I hadn’t heard of it before, but the blurb sounded quite cool and I thought if I only got one thing from it, it would be worth the £1.99. 

It went on to become my favourite audiobook I’ve listened to, and I feel like I’ve gotten something new out of it every time I’ve listened to it (probably on my 6th listen now). It’s called “Insanely Gifted” by Jamie Catto (who interestingly was also a founding member of the band ‘Faithless’!)

One thing I did get out of it, which really hit me, was the idea that what we don’t like about others, is usually a reflection of ourselves.

For example, something that really triggers me is when people complain about stuff. To me, when I hear someone complaining, I just think they’re ungrateful, whiney and short-sighted. But what if I add “Just like me” to the end of that list? Could it possibly be that I, too, possess the capacity to be exactly those things that I most dislike, at times? Of course the answer is yes. 

So with all the information, am I best to get annoyed, or try to change the other person? Or am I better using this as an indication that I need to work on something within myself? Well, someone else’s mindset isn’t really in our control, whereas at least we have some control over our own.

Again, I wish I remembered to do this all the time. 

4. Don’t Tell Anyone About Your Goals

When we’re embarking on a journey towards a new goal, it can be very tempting to tell everyone who’ll listen. It’s the equivalent of writing “big things coming!” on Instagram, or even posting a picture of your first time back at the gym. 

It can feel nice to hear people re-assure you with a, “Good on you! Can’t wait to see what you do!”, or give you a like on the gram, and therefore we receive a certain amount of gratification from it. 

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with gratification. In fact, it’s a method of working out how we should be and how we should interact with others. For example, you do something nice, someone says, “thank you”, you get a feeling of gratification, so you know this is a good thing to do, and you’ll probably do it again. 

However, for this reason, it is important that we are careful about what we are getting gratification for. Do we want to be getting gratification for telling people that we have made a plan and are going to go after a goal? Or would it be better to delay the gratification, and receive it a couple of months down the line, when a friend compliments you on all the weight you’ve lost? Or better yet, perhaps the gratification comes from yourself, when you’re looking in the mirror, and see a flat stomach for the first time in years, and think about all the hard work you’ve put in to get there, and smile.

If we receive gratification for “starting”, or in this case, for telling people about our goals, that doesn’t create any incentive to keep going, but if we receive gratification a while down the line, from others or ourselves, when we’ve actually done something to make progress, then this can reinforce the positive habits we’ve created and can really help in sticking to our goals.

Conor

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