1. Think Small: Too often, resolutions reflect long-term life goals without the specificity needed to actually accomplish anything. (Think: drink less booze, get in shape). Alternatively, they have absurdly high bars that practically guarantee failure (Think: master a new instrument or language, completely eliminate debt). Instead, make a resolution that sets you on a path of growth. Want to master a language? Make your resolution to learn enough to order dinner at an ethnic restaurant in the native language. Aspiring to become a musical virtuoso? Resolve to learn enough notes or chords to play a simple song around the campfire. For exercise, aim for modest weight loss over the course of the year or even a simple monthly goal. By thinking small, you can actually accomplish something and build up the confidence to truly grow.
2. Elevate Your Fun: The best New Year’s resolution I ever made was to drink more Scotch. This was not an increase in alcohol consumption, but simply an attempt to become comfortable with the sophisticated drink that can scorch unaccustomed palates. Now, when I visit the home of a Scotch drinker (who can be a particular bunch), I don’t wince when they serve me their preferred drink. Ditto for bourbon. This year, consider a resolution you will actually enjoy pursuing that also makes you a more complex person. Need some ideas? How about homemade tapas, eating exotic cheeses, watching a Bollywood movie every month, following a major soccer competition (World Cup qualifying or Champions League(s) are fun) or reading more crime novels.
3. Ignore Failure: If you resolve to write everyday, odds are the resolution will fail by the end of the first week of January. Who cares? Resolutions that demand an ongoing commitment shouldn’t have a “Game Over” clause. After all, you’re trying to build a habit, not win a race.
4. Make It Public: It’s not groundbreaking to say that if you make your goals public you’ll stick to them better. But it’s still important to say.
5. Look To The Chinese: New Year’s resolutions come at a time when many people are dogged by holiday hangovers, figuratively, physically, mentally and financially. Throw in returning to work or school and simply trying to survive the winter doldrums, and those resolutions become a burden that are best ignored. Why not kick those resolutions into action after the Chinese New Year? Maybe even wait to Easter, a time of rebirth for Christians, or pair up with your significant other and begin on Valentine’s Day. Another alternative: make a new resolution every month, and focus on that for 30 days. Then move to your next one. After all, the point of a New Year’s resolution is growth, and anytime is good for that.