How to Make Your Resolutions Actually Work For You

It’s all about being realistic.

By Kelly Krause

photo from dignify

Unpopular opinion: I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Now, if you’re thinking, “That’s not Living Kindly,” let me explain.

I guarantee in the past few weeks you’ve seen advertisements or have heard: “Detox! Cleanse! New Year, New You!.” January 1st has become a bit of a commercialized holiday in the wellness and fitness industry. To me, the messages come across as inauthentic, surface-level, and cheap. Second, while I love the idea of a fresh start and working towards any goal, I’d love for you to do that when you feel ready, and that may not be on January 1st. Finally, the thought of setting one goal at the start of the year and keeping that for 365 days feels limiting. I’d like to think we’re constantly evolving and changing and what suits us in January or February may be entirely different by July.

Just pause for a moment and seriously look at how much you changed over the course of a year. Not sure about you, but the girl I was in January of 2017 is pretty different than the girl I am right now. It’s amazing how much we can evolve.

I’m a growth-orientated and self-reflective person, so I am constantly trying to learn, step outside of my comfort zone, and challenge myself creatively and professionally. Change is inevitable in my world. So what did I do when January 1st rolled around? Nothing really. I didn’t feel the pressure to “have a plan” or drastically change anything. Quite opposite to be honest. At the end of 2018, I started to meet with a therapist (more on that at another time), and put in some really solid time and work into “me.” I like what I’ve been working on and most of all, what I’ve gained from the process. The name of the game at the end of 2018 was to slow down, and I’m carrying that into 2019. I’m usually quick to fire off a text, respond with an immediate YES/NO, overcommit, and eventually run myself into the ground and get really sick. It’s been a hard practice to pause, but one that’s worth it. Not much in life — or at least in my world — requires an immediate response. And friends, this is the first time in years that I haven’t been sick in the Fall or Winter.

photo from free people

Ok, so by now you’re probably like, “She doesn’t like New Year’s Resolutions, but she’s growth-oriented, so what does she do?”

Back in November, I committed to shorter, monthly goals to hold myself accountable and get where I need to go.

Do any of you follow Seth Godin? He’s an OG (“original gangster” in case my Mom is reading) Marketing and Branding expert. He founded Yoyodyne, a well-known interactive direct marketing company, which Yahoo! acquired in ’98. He’s now a full-time speaker, writer and blogger, and has a daily email newsletter that I genuinely look forward to reading every morning. A lot of his writing and words apply to elevating your everyday life. And really, if you’re in any creative industry or trying to sell a product or service, you can consider yourself a Marketer. On January 1st, Seth wrote about the notion of sprinting. He said that most of have two speeds: the grind (work, work, work) and the recovery (sleep in, chill). “But what about the sprints,” he wrote. “Sprints that we take on merely because they energize us and remind us of how much we can do when we get out of our own way. Sprints that build our capacity. Sprints to embolden us. The best way to improve your marathon is to learn to sprint now and then. Maybe you can’t sustain a sprint for a day. But what about this afternoon? What could you learn or build or teach or contribute?”

I like thinking about my monthly goals as a sprint — something that can be accomplished in a shorter time period. I know that might sound counterproductive as I mentioned the theme of 2017 into 2018 is to slow down, but my hope is that these shorter monthly goals begin to lay the foundation and spark some really great change.

As an example, here’s what January looks like. I didn’t start each of these goals on January 1, they start when I feel like it and when I need it, but they’re ready to go at the first of the month. I’ve added proposed start dates given my travel, work, and personal schedule. My guess is I will keep some of these goals for February and beyond, and ditch the others. As with everything, I keep what I like and get rid of whatever doesn’t serve me.

photo from decor8

1. Less social media, more silence. 

I know that’s vague, but I haven’t really taken inventory on how much I’m using social media. For right now, “less” means: if I’m bored, don’t reach for my phone, go do something productive. There are times of the day where I feel compelled to post something on Instagram or Twitter, but if I need to check in with a friend, I’d much rather send them a quick text or pick up the phone and call. Also, show of hands for any of you that actually sit in silence without your phones, music, kids, or a TV on in the background? It feels like a luxury. It’s something I used to enjoy on solo bike rides. I’m creating more situations for myself where I put my phone away and just sit. (This one did start on January 1st, when I wanted to be off my phone).

photo from o mundo de jess

2. Read before bed. 

I really hate typing this, because it’s a bit embarrassing and I feel like I have a ton of catching up to do, but I’ve never been a huge book-reader. In the past I’d much rather watch an indie film, listen to a podcast, or read The New Yorker, or another longform article vs. an entire book. But when I look at how much time I waste doing pointless things (scrolling social media), I’d rather curl up with a good book. I can’t even tell you what genre I prefer outside of autobiographies, but if you have any great recs, please leave it in the comments. (I started this on Jan. 6th).

photo from elle

3. Get ready for March. 

Most of you know, I work for a really big festival and conference in Austin, TX and once March 1st rolls around, I am crazed until the 19th when it ends, and exhausted immediately after. I’m setting up auto-bill pay for all bills, making a massage appointment immediately following the festival, and getting my ducks in a row so I don’t have to worry about it when I’m half-crazed in February. Whenever possible, I try to set myself up for success. This small sprint will take a few hours tops and save me a week of stress.

photo from free people

4. Stretch.

No joke, one of my goals is to be flexible at 80. Every time I see an older man or woman running the trail or taking care of themselves, I think “I want that.” My body is more often achey than not, and my flexibility is so limited. Melissa Hartwig (co-creator of the Whole30) dedicated 2018 to “The Year of Strong and Bendy” and I love it so much, I’m doing something similar. Believe me, I know that one month of stretching will not make me Gumby, but this is my starting point, and I only hope it will evolve.

photo from atelier dore

5. Money, honey.

I did such a good job of saving money in 2018, that I’m carrying this one over again. Small changes: adding more to my 401k, buying less coffee, and eating out less. I know less is vague, but when given the option to grab a breakfast taco or make one at home, I’ll choose the latter. This is another one that will likely carry over into other months, but I’ll see how this works in January.

photo by jessica attie

6. Create a Vision Board. 

Have you guys ever created a vision board? I have not, but I have a few friends who absolutely swear by them. One uses her New Year’s Day to DIY her own by cutting out images from magazines and pasting to a board. Another creates a Pinterest board, and another uses an app from Hay House. The idea is that by identifying what you want and having it in plain sight everyday (or often), you will manifest it and get it. According to my friends, it’s worked for them — more money, a husband, a baby, new home, etc. Part of me thinks it’s hippy-dippy and cheesy and the other part of me thinks where you put your thoughts and energy matter, so I’m going to give it a go. I’m going to use the Hay House Vision Board app and at the end of the year, I’ll report in on what happened. (This is scheduled for the week of January 22 when I’m on a flight and have undistracted time to think).

As I take a look at each goal, I realize not only are they really attainable and doable, but they help me keep my theme of slowing down. But goals are just words without some action applied, right?

Here’s what I do to keep myself honest and hold myself accountable:

1. Be as specific as possible. I realize saying “less” above is vague, but for right now recognizing that every time I reach for my phone out of boredom is a move in the right direction. In terms of goal #5 related to money, I’ve set aside a specific dollar amount and percentage to add to my 401k and savings.

2. Ask: how will I measure success? Each of my goals is measured differently. Success with goal #2 is to feel good and not achey. Success with goal #5 is to have a particular dollar amount in savings each month. Success with goal #2 is to have read 12 new books by the end of the year — if I read more, great. Knowing what you want, or how you want to feel will help guide how successful you are.

3. Be flexible. Remember that you’re human and that unexpected things happen. I think it’s ok to be rigid in setting goals with hopeful outcomes, but I think we need to keep in mind that life may not go as planned. Be ready to pivot to a new goal, or spend that $100 you were saving for retirement on something that’s really special.

4. “Is it worth it?” It’s a simple statement, but one that has the ability to change your future big time. Applies to every single goal. “Is it worth it to read an hour, or get extra sleep?” “Is it worth it to spend a few hours away from friends, so I can make appointments and prep for a busy season?” “Is one yoga class going to make me feel better?” “Do I really need those $400 pair of shoes or will a plane ticket be a better investment?” Keep this mantra in your back pocket, trust me.

5. Post-goal recap. After you’ve set your goal and achieved (or didn’t achieve), take inventory on what went right or wrong. It’s the only way to move forward.

I’d love to know how you approach goals, intentions, or getting what you want. Perhaps you’re a New Year’s Resolution person and you’re already well on your way to a good start: I see you and support you. Maybe you’re a weekly or daily goals-oriented person and monthly doesn’t work for you: I see you and support you. You might prefer to set an intention or mantra for your day and that’s your jam: I see you and support you. Or frankly, maybe goals aren’t your thing yet or at all: I see you and support you. As with everything, you do you. What works for you is what matters most.

Happy New Year, friends!