When we have a whole 365 days ahead of us—12 months of mystery, growth, excitement, and change—making traditional resolutions for the new year feels strange. It's hard to set concrete, long-term goals for a future self whose priorities and interests evolve.
I believe new year's resolutions, however future-oriented they are, are inherently grounded by who we are in the present. And while it's wonderful to honor our present wishes, it seems unfair to hold our future selves accountable to a past, often fleeting, idea of happiness.
At the same time, I freaking love setting goals and intentions. Here are some substitutes to resolution-making that, I hope, take into consideration the things we can't foresee.
Three Alternatives to New Year's Resolutions
Choose a Word or Theme
Let a particular word or theme guide how you make your way through 2017. Your word might reflect an energy you want to exude, something of which you'd like greater abundance, a result you want to achieve, and more. I particularly like this practice because a single word seems so simple, but holds so much possibility. You may choose a word with some particular actions in mind, but you'll be surprised how this theme shows up and guides you in different, unforeseen ways.
Set Monthly Challenges
Month to month, our worlds are a little more predictable. Consider using the first of each month as a time to check in, set particular goals, and maybe try out a few new things that align with your current priorities.
You might even want to adopt a "formula" for this. For instance, each month this year I'm going to pick one thing to fast, one new thing to try, and one new topic to learn more about. Instead of making all my choices in January, I can be assured my decisions for each month will reflect my interests and needs.
Leave It Open
If the pressure of setting New Year's intentions or thinking about how you want to improve is overwhelming, maybe that's a sign to pause. In the midst of making lofty New Year's plans, it's important to acknowledge where we are now, everything we've accomplished, and the things we love about ourselves that we don't want to change. In the spirit of this, skip the resolution-making altogether. Embrace how the year unfolds naturally.