Just Say No to New Year’s Resolutions!

graphic representation of years shifting from 2021 to 2022

Does this sound familiar? It’s a new year. You sit down and thoughtfully write a list of resolutions: Lose 20 pounds by June. Go vegan. Take yoga classes twice a week. Organize the house/apartment/garage. Reserve one hour each day for reading. Stop cussing!

I Love Lists

Lists keep me focused. Lists help me prioritize projects and meet deadlines. They keep me on budget when I go grocery shopping. My lists are lifesavers, especially in this somewhat chaotic, unpredictable, pandemic-challenged world.

The one list that doesn’t help, however, is my annual list of New Year’s resolutions. Sigh … this is the list by which I can no longer abide.

Just say no (to New Year’s resolutions)

As I reflect on the resolutions I’ve written in the past, I see goals that are aspirational. That’s not a bad thing. But if I’m honest, they are unrealistic and unattainable. They quickly turn to disappointment. By the end of January, the resolutions go from flame to fizzle to a pile of ash.

In conversations with family and friends, I discover I’m in good company. An overwhelming majority have expressed that they ditched writing resolutions long ago. Or they’ve shifted their focus to something mindful and in the moment.

My husband, for example, practices gratitude in the form of giving. He already donates monthly to specific nonprofits, but this gratitude giving is in response to the unanticipated, such as a donation to the Red Cross following the December tornadoes.

This year, I took a new approach too. It is time to banish the usual weight loss-less cussing-get organized resolutions. They don’t work! Well, they don’t work for me.

Choose one word

One idea I’m fond of and have adopted this year is choosing a word on which to focus and keep close to my heart. It’s a way of creating a framework of intention for the year. My word has become a mantra of sorts.

This idea came from a work colleague, Kayleigh. She proposed we choose a word for the year for our office. Collectively, we came up with kindness.

The past couple years have been particularly difficult. We’ve helped clients, their families, and each other navigate some unusually challenging situations. Kindness is at the core of our work but having this word at the forefront helps us stay centered, calm amid chaos, and focused on what matters most. It’s our cleansing breath.

My personal word for the year is declutter, a carryover from last year. I engaged in the occasional practice of decluttering throughout last year. It was not scheduled. It wasn’t even intentional. It happened in the moment when I became overwhelmed by stuff.

It’s been a positive, healing process. I want to bring that process more intentionally into this new year. I have books in abundance, clothing, too. Finding new homes for these items has been fun. And I Iove the space I’m making, too—not for new things but for the peace it brings.

Find your word

Grab a piece of paper or notebook and try these steps to find your word:

  1. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Make a list of what you want to focus on in 2022. Reflect on last year. What could you use more of? Less of? Don’t edit yourself, just keep writing.
  2. Review the list. Do you see a common theme?
  3. List 3–5 words you associate with that theme.
  4. Which word feels the most authentic and motivational to YOU? Let that be your word.

Choose your word. Write it down. Put it where you’ll see it frequently. Say your word aloud. Internalize it. Share your word.

Now go forward and bring your word into the world. Put your word into action to make the changes and improvements you’re motivated and committed to making.

With that said, I have a bookcase calling my name and in need of decluttering. Let’s do this!

Keri PollockContributor Keri Pollock directs marketing and communications for Aging Wisdom, a care management, consultation, and creative engagement practice based in Seattle. She is a member of the Age Friendly Coalition for Seattle and King County, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the Frye Art Museum Creative Aging Programs and the Marcomm Council of the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter.

This article was originally published in the January 2022 issue of AgeWise King County.