I’ll be honest, I went through a long phase where I was staunchly anti-resolution at the beginning of every new year. I was weary of the low-level emotional rollercoaster they sent me on — the dopamine rush from making a resolution only to be met with the crash of disappointment a few weeks later left me feeling disillusioned.
But these days, I see the value of reflection, intention, and planning. Do you know the saying:
A dream without a plan is just a wish.
This is so true in adult life, when so many things compete with your time. In order to intentionally create a life we love, we need a plan. We need to take stock of what we need to do to make our dreams a reality and where to carve out the time.
Once I admitted to myself that I enjoy taking stock of the past year and think about the arc of the year to come, I begrudgingly realized that I make resolutions, although I like to think of them more as guideposts or intentions.
I thought I’d share my process for the coming year in hopes that it will help inspire your mindful New Year’s resolutions.
First, I reflect on the past year.
When you reflect on the past year, think about the highlights. What did you set out to do that you accomplished? What were some of the best moments and memories? This could be anything from a work achievement to an emotional shift to a trip you’ve always wanted to take.
If you’re more of a visual person, you can create a highlight Reel on Instagram. I did it and it’s easy and fun — set it to music and it truly sparks joy. You can even keep it in your Drafts if you don’t like sharing personal stuff on Insta.
Last year, I turned 50 — this huge milestone coupled with being an eight-year cancer survivor meant that my intention for the year was simple: To truly enjoy my life. To consciously cultivate more fun and connection. It might sound basic, but it was major for me.
I’d spent years with Jason on the road, which made it difficult to have any social life on the weekends. I’d spent years worrying about my health. I’d spent years trying to find a school fit for my kid and learning about neurodiversity. It was time to remember the parts of me that could soak up the beauty, that could belly laugh with friends, that could let go and live a little.
So, I planned a family trip for my 50th birthday. I invited friends and family to come to our new home and had several awesome weekends with old friends. I went to see Harry Styles and laughed the entire evening, including when we managed to still be in bed by 11pm. I took long walks by the ocean. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried to make new friends. And Jason and I found several easy, delicious dinner spots for nights out.
It was…amazing. And the intention was conscious. Without it, I wouldn’t have made time for these things.
This is, in part, why acknowledging the previous year is so important. It helps us to see just how much a focused intention guides our actions.
But don’t worry if you didn’t follow through on your intention or if your year was a messy disaster. If you’re feeling drawn to it, you can also reflect on the challenges of the past year. Ask yourself — have I processed these things? If not, are there any practices I can do or is there outside support I can seek to help me? Remember there are myriad tools in life and you don’t have to move through things alone. Perhaps your new year intentions will include finding a therapist or a coach or reaching out more to friends who “get” you.
Second: Choose a word or theme that you’d like to pursue for the coming year
Try not to overthink it! What bubbles to the surface? In all likelihood, there is an inner desire that’s been just behind your consciousness. Go ahead and let it out.
You might find several words competing for your attention. If that’s the case, I suggest sitting with things for a few days and seeing if one emerges as the clear choice.
Or, you might end up with several words! That’s the case for me this year. I started with the word Creativity.
But I realized that in order to cultivate creativity, I need more contemplative time and space, which means I will need to offload some of the less creative parts of my life and job. I also decided that I didn’t want to let go of the connection with friends that I worked to hard to rekindle last year. So I landed on these three words, which feel interdependent:
Manage. Create. Connect.
Third: Once you’ve honed in on your word or words, you can draft a plan.
Remember: A dream without a plan is just a wish.
Where can you carve out time to make your intention a reality? What form will your intention take? (Sure, I can tell myself I want to be more creative, but what will I do about it?)
For this step, I really like Gretchen Rubin’s 23 for 2023, which you can read about here. It’s very simple — it’s a list of 23 things you will do this year (large and small) that center around your word or theme.
I like having a big ole list of 23 because you have enough space to list the lofty (outline a book idea) to the mundane (buy a new robe), to the logistical (re-create budget/savings goals).
Rubin also encourages you to make this a fun exercise and to be specific. So, instead of “plan date nights with Jason,” I’m writing “plan to try 5 new restaurants with Jason.”
You might be the type of person who likes to segment your list into categories: Work, Social, Physical, Mental/Emotional. Or you might be like me and enjoy just letting it all spill out in a big mess.
I’ve turned on comments for this blog and I’d LOVE to hear your word, words, or to even see your list!
Here’s my list:
My words: Manage. Create. Connect.
1. Eat 5 servings fruits/veggies per day
2. Plan 5 related podcast packages
3. Do more family photobook stories
4. Plan quarterly team lunches
5. Take Sofia to London and to see New Forest Ponies
6. Organize Jason’s local weekend workshop and fun student dinner
7. Post to social 3xs/week
8. Stand up paddleboard with the fam once/month
9. Teach a one-off webinar course
10. Get a mah jong or family game night going
11. Create personal budget goals with Jason
12. Plan 5 new restaurant dates
13. Keep walking by the beach/yoga-ing/strength-training 5 days/week
14. Outline a book (or try several to hone in?)
15. Try pickleball again
16. Teach Sofia to cook 3 dishes
17. Be more systematic about connecting with friends and colleagues
18. Try morning writing/journaling/blogging
19. Review this list 1st of each month
20. When in doubt, get out of comparing; get out of my head
21. 23 days in a row of meditation
22. Take a trail ride
23. Go to DC for wedding, Boston to see friends