A disappointing 80% of New Year’s resolutions are dead in the water by February. This would not be disappointing if there weren’t so many people yearning to make positive changes in their lives.
In my work as a coach, I often hear clients talk about how they struggle to focus on and stick with their goals. Many resolutions fall to the sideline because they are either unrealistic or because an actual, practical plan was never designed to make it happen in real life. So instead of creating several goals, choose ONE to focus on that will make the greatest positive impact on your life. Once you choose it, develop a practical plan to hold yourself accountable to weaving the new resolution into your life in an achievable, meaningful way. If you don’t know how to start devising that plan, schedule a free coaching session with me and I can help you get started !
To kick-start the process, ask yourself:
- What do I want to invite more of in my life?
- What do I want to focus on this year?
- What do I want to accomplish, try out, or have fun with this year?
- What can I actually commit to this year?
- What is the one new thing I want to do that will make a big difference this year?
Whether you want to lower your stress, lose weight, get healthier, or improve your mood, relationships, finances, or career, consider making one of these New Year’s resolutions to make a meaningful difference in your life this year. And remember, just focus on ONE.
1. Do Less
In our culture, we tend to thrive on “more,” “better,” and “faster.” This resolution is all about asking yourself, “What can I possibly do less of?” and “What can I say no to?”
Instead of packing your calendar with activities and crowding your to-do list with more, take a step back and think about what you really want to do with your precious time. Think about what you can say no to and how you can design a balanced calendar so you have some breathing room this year.
2. Be Kinder
Practicing kindness can improve your health, reduce stress, make you happier, and make the world a better place, too. Doing things like stashing granola bars in your car to give them out to the homeless, promoting a friend’s small business, offering to run an errand for a sick friend, and treating someone to a smoothie or coffee are simple ways you can make kindness more contagious. Here are 44 ideas to get you started.
3. Connect More with Your Favorite People
Take time each week to connect with the people who are important to you. This may mean making sure to schedule quality time for dinners, game nights, coffee dates, movies, and meaningful conversations. When you do, try to keep your smartphone out of sight to make sure you’re really present with those you love. You can also try this mindful listening practice to connect even deeper with those around you.
4. Practice Patience
Patience has always been difficult for me. But I have grown to believe that even the most impatient people can improve their patience. We all know there are endless activities in any given day that test our patience, so this also means there are many, many opportunities to practice this virtue. If you want some tips on how to improve your patience as one of your New Year’s resolutions, read these seven strategies to build your patience muscles.
5. Embrace a Gratitude Mindset
It’s easy say thank you when you notice something you appreciate. But it’s also easy to quickly forget. Embracing a gratitude mindset is about becoming hyper aware of the things you appreciate—and holding onto that sense of gratitude. It’s about noticing the small and big things you’re grateful for in your life. Once you get into the rhythm of noticing gratitude in everything you do, it becomes part of your life and part of your mindset. Here are five ways to squeeze in a dose of gratitude.
Commit to an exercise routine if you don’t already have one, and exercise more often if you already do. Instead of counting calories you burn, create a specific goal, like “run a 10K by summer” or “go to yoga three times a week.” Trying new activities is another great way to make exercising more fun.
7. Commit to a Meditation Practice
Even five minutes a day of meditation can make you more focused, creative, compassionate, productive, and less stressed. If this is one of your New Year’s resolutions, read the 10 rules for new meditators to help you get started.
8. Get Enough Sleep
You can’t feel or function your best when you don’t get enough sleep. While that amount varies for everyone, most people need between seven and nine hours to be at their best. It’s important to know what that magic number is for you and prioritize your beauty rest accordingly.
When you don’t get enough sleep, or the quality of your sleep is not restful, it takes a giant toll on your mind and body. It probably comes as no surprise that even short-term sleep deficiencies can negatively impact your mental and performance state. For a better quality of life during your waking hours, including the ability to focus and be present and mindful during your day-to-day life, make sure to get the sleep your body needs.
9. Incline Your Mind Toward Positivity
This is more than the “be positive” New Year’s resolution that many people declare. And it’s more than simply “focusing on the silver lining.” This is about training your brain to be happier.
Psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Rick Hanson is known for saying, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” It means that in our culture, we are conditioned to focus on suffering, and it takes practice to rewire the brain to focus on positive things. In fact, for every negative experience, it takes seven positive experiences to reach homeostasis.
How do you practice inclining your mind to focus on positivity? By actively noticing positive states throughout the day. They are easy to miss, especially the tiny gems that grace our path. The more you can notice and open up to the beautiful experiences in life — however small — the more they shine, and the more you are inclining your mind toward positivity.
Rick Hanson suggested that when you notice something positive, to stay with it for as long as you’re able to make sure it doesn’t float by under acknowledged. For example, every time you notice a positive state – like joyful, energized, grateful, mindful, compassionate, connected – stay with the feeling for at least 15 seconds. Hanson wrote, “We must consciously experience what we want to learn – this may simply be the feeling of being loved or enjoying a walk. Now, turn that passing experience into a lasting change of neural structure or function, by ‘staying with’ the experience for up to 20 seconds at a time. Feel it. Allow it to sink into you like a sponge.”
If you can do this six times a day, for a total of a minute and a half every day, your mind will begin to notice unconsciously and be more inclined toward positive states.
10. Be More Curious
When you’re curious, problem solving becomes easier because you see more options, paths, and ways of solving a problem than your non-curious counterparts. You question more; you gather more opinions; you don’t stop at the first solution – which can lead to greater possibilities.
To truly embrace an attitude of curiosity means you begin to question things in your life and the world around you with no attachment to the answer. This last part is the key. Even if the subject at hand is something you know a lot about – pretend like you are getting to know it for the first time and with wonder, begin to inquire, observe, and learn. To do this without judgment requires an incredibly high degree of openness. Embracing curiosity involves playfulness, lightness, and openness – all fun qualities to practice, so remember to enjoy the process!
11. Save Cash
Consider spending less money each week and stashing it away for your future. Saving just an extra $10 every week and investing it wisely could mean great strides in your retirement fund, your travel budget, your kid’s college fund, or another meaningful event in your life down the road.
12. Design a Morning Routine
I’m a huge advocate of morning routines. I used to wake up feeling rushed, which would make my entire day feel the same stressed-out sentiment. Since the first thing you do when you wake up will set the tone for your entire day, you better be intentional about your mornings. If you want to move through your day with ease, energy, awareness and confidence, start your day with activities that encourage those states of mind.
Check out my complete guide to setting up a morning routine to learn about what steps you can take first thing in the morning to set yourself up for success.
13. Learn Something New
Declare every moment an opportunity to learn this year! Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language, an instrument, or a dance style — its time to make it happen. Research has shown that people who continually learn new things throughout life are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so step outside of your comfort zone and start now.
14. Let Go of Expectations
When you set the bar too high, you may be disappointed. When you set the bar too low and expect nothing, you end up dreading the event. There are many overused clichés about expectations, but the point is: expectations are rarely helpful. Allow yourself to be surprised by whatever the moment will hold by letting go of whatever you believe will happen and instead, just letting it happen.
15. Know Your Priorities
If you don’t know what matters most in any given day or week, you won’t be able to get the most important things done.
At the beginning of each day (or end of each day for the following day), make a to-do list that only includes three things. You may be tempted to add more than three things, but don’t. If you’re feeling stressed and it’s because you have too much to do, take five minutes to write down all that’s swimming in your head, and then prioritize. Removing items off your to-do list that aren’t important so you can focus on what is, is incredibly helpful to reduce feelings of overwhelm. Remember, if your to-do list is overwhelmed, chances are you are, too. Make prioritization one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2019 and notice how much less stressed you feel.
16. Listen More and Talk Less
If you’re an introvert, this may be easy for you (and you may even want to invert the resolution!). But if you are an extrovert, this may be the perfect New Year’s resolution for you. When most people are listening, their mind is elsewhere, either waiting for the other person to finish speaking or preparing what it is they are going to say next. See if you can tune in more to what others are saying, without feeling like you have to chime in. Here are some tips on how to practice mindful listening.
17. Make Time and Space for Yourself
If you often operate in the over-planned, too-busy mode, it’s important to be intentional about this.
Time and space doesn’t just mean to make time for yourself and the things you love to do. In order to get into a deeper state of self-awareness, you’ll want to set aside time without distractions — to detach from the nonstop electronic and social demands on daily life. Therefore, this also means to carve out the time away from your smart phone, access to social media, and steady stream of texts, calls, and emails. When you are at the mercy of notifications, it means you are living according to someone else’s agenda. When you detach from these things, you are in charge of your time.
18. Set a Daily Intention
Setting your intention is the practice of conscious action in your life. Your intention can help to guide your every action as you move through your day, so the outcome is not left up to chance.
19. Travel More
Whether you want to increase the amount of countries you visit or time spent relaxing, traveling can increase your perspective in helpful ways. So use those vacation days, book that flight, pack your bags, and grab your bucket list. Traveling helps you stretch your limits and step outside of your comfort zone. What could be better to focus on this year?
What New Year’s resolutions are you choosing to focus on in 2019?
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As an ICF Certified Executive Coach, Melissa partners with leaders to develop their executive presence, strategic and systems thinking, resilience, communication skills, and influence in order to reach their goals. Melissa is passionate about supporting leaders and teams on their growth journeys toward greater impact, more collaborative teams, and stronger results.