7 Alternatives to Making New Year’s Resolutions

January 01, 2018

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash
Does anyone make a New Year’s resolution anymore? There’s a lot of talk about how resolutions are rarely kept, and how most people give up on their goals just a few weeks or months into the year. For a person who wants to set and achieve goals, it can be a frustrating dilemma. If resolutions aren’t an effective way to a better and happier life, what is?

Here are seven alternatives to New Year’s resolutions that just might help you make 2018 your happiest year ever:

Choose a Word of the Year

I’ve done this for eight years, and written about it several times on Catching Happiness. I choose my word to focus on an overall theme or feeling I want to carry through the entire year. I choose it to offset tendencies I want to correct, or to remind myself to choose happiness (“delight”). My word for 2017 was “deeper,” and going deeper into life last year added brilliant new dimensions to my experience. My word for 2018? Flow. For a free Word of the Year tool, click here. To explore the concept further, visit oneword365.com.

Adopt a “Do More ______, Do Less_____” philosophy

For example, “Read more, watch TV less” or “Walk more, eat less junk food.” Deceptively simple, but baby steps work.

Commit to a 30- or 90-day challenge

Choose a habit you want to adopt or a small goal you want to achieve, and work on it for 30 days straight. For larger goals, make a 90-day plan, treating each week as the equivalent of month (see The 12 Week Year for more inspiration and ideas about how to do that.) 

Make a list of simple pleasures and everyday adventures you want to experience

How often do we pack our goal lists with things we want to change or have to work for? This is simply a list of things you look forward to in 2018. Family vacations, books you want to read or movies you want to see in 2018, or a loved one’s wedding/baby/grandchild belong on this list. Try breaking it down like Laura Vanderkam does with her seasonal “fun lists”

Write a letter to your future self

Include such things as what you hope to accomplish, how you want to feel, what you’d like to leave behind in the coming year. Open it on Jan. 1, 2019 to see how you did.

Start a gratitude journal, jotting down at least one thing you’re grateful for every day

(Read The Gratitude Diaries for an inspiring look at how gratitude can make your life happier.) 

Join the 7 Things x 2018 Challenge

Fill in the following blanks, and you’ve got some goals for the year:
Learn how to ____________
Start ____________
Stop ____________
Take a vacation to ____________
Find ____________
Try ____________
Be more ____________

Growth contributes to happiness, so setting and reaching goals is one way to feel happier. I hope 2018 holds plenty of growth and happiness for you!

What do you have planned for 2018?

Note: Starting today, I’m changing the usual Catching Happiness posting schedule from Wednesdays and Fridays to Mondays and Fridays. Happy New Year!

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  1. DO people make resolutions anymore? I only ever do reading resolutions, of a sort anyway. I like the idea of choosing one word to help guide you through the year--I know someone else who does that, too.

    1. Danielle--I don't think I know anyone who does New Year's resolutions, even though I continue to see stories about them, or stories like mine about alternatives.

      I've really enjoyed where my words of the year have taken me. Previous ones have stayed with me, too.

      Looking forward to seeing where your reading resolutions take you this year, Danielle!

  2. Oh as always I love this. I love this time of year when I naturally gravitate toward renewal. A book I read that deals with Happiness: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I loved it so much, though there are some painful parts...Your writing means a lot to me, Just to let you know...

    1. Dear Rita--Thank you so much for your comment. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy. I will have to look for that book--I've heard of it, but not read it. Despite the cold, dark days (it's even cold here in Florida right now), it does feel like a time of renewal.

  3. Dear Kathy - this is such a great post. I know I am behind in reading it but so glad I didn't miss it. I do agree with Rita too - your writing and the time you put into each post is such a blessing. Hugs!

    1. Thanks so much, Debbie. You and Rita both don't know how much your encouragement means to me!