5 Alternatives to Traditional New Year's Resolutions

These alternatives could help you crush your goals.

Posted Dec 27, 2017

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As a psychotherapist, I've seen countless people create positive change in their lives. But it's rare that I see anyone change their lives after making a New Year's resolution.

Think about it. When was the last time you heard someone say, "I lost 50 pounds last year thanks to my New Year's resolution!" or "I finally paid off all my debt after I created that New Year's resolution"?

Depending on which study you read, an estimated 88 to 92 percent of people fail to keep New Year's resolutions. Yet, despite the dismal probability of success, most people continue to declare a new year will bring about new habits.

If you want to make 2018 your best year, think beyond the resolution. These alternatives will help you go on more adventures, connect with amazing people, learn new things, and grow stronger.

1. Establish a New Goal Each Month

Rather than establish a huge resolution to tackle for the next 365 days, set monthly goals for yourself. Perhaps January will be the month you go to the gym before work three times a week, and February will be the month you tackle packing your lunches instead of eating out every day.

You might decide to create a 12-month calendar that outlines each month's goal ahead of time, or you may decide to choose your goals month-by-month.

The key to success is to pick measurable goals. So rather than saying, "I'll manage my money better this month," commit to a goal like, "I'll save $500 this month." Short-term, realistic, and achievable goals can help you stay motivated.

2. Keep Track of Your Healthy Habits

Stay flexible and leave room for spontaneity by tracking your healthy habits every day. So instead of setting out to accomplish specific things each week or month, you might simply track the healthy choices you make each day. At the end of the day, write down three healthy things you did that day on a calendar. Having a visual display of your accomplishments — even small ones like ordering the salad instead of the burger, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator — will motivate you to keep up the good work.

You might also pick a healthy habit that you want to track — like going to the gym. Rather than set out to go to the gym five times a week, simply decide that each time you go, you'll put a marble inside a jar. When the jar gets full, treat yourself to something nice (just not something that will sabotage your progress).

3. Develop a Mantra

Rather than decide that this is going to be the year that you "save more money," create a mantra that says, "I only buy what I need." Then commit to following that mantra, without any strict rules or rigid guidelines. When you're shopping, remind yourself of your mantra. Such a mantra can feel more positive and empowering than a resolution — after all, with a resolution, you either fail or succeed, but a mantra becomes a way of life.

Of course, that doesn't mean you won't tune out your mantra and throw caution to the wind sometimes; you will. But if you keep repeating it in your head, the message will sink in, and over time, your behavior will change.

4. Conduct Weekly Experiments

Rather than making yourself engage in grueling habits or depriving yourself of anything fun, decide to make it a year of curiosity: Establish weekly experiments that test out various habits or that challenge you to do new things.

One week, you might decide to talk to five strangers every day just to see what happens. If you approach it with an open mind, you might discover that your mood improves, or that you make new friends. Or you might set out to go for a brisk morning walk before you start your work day. You might discover that it gives you more energy throughout the whole day.

You can do anything for a week. And you just might discover new strategies that you'll want to turn into regular habits — but you won't know unless you try.

5. Make a Bucket List

Choose a whole bunch of things you'd like to do over the course of the year, whether it's taking a Chinese cooking class or flying in a helicopter over Las Vegas. If you pick small things, you might put 52 items on your list and check one off each week. If you're hoping to do some big things, maybe pick 12, and tackle one each month.

Having things to look forward to can boost your mood — and when you feel better, you're likely to do better. When you're enjoying your bucket list items, you might find that you naturally want to get healthy, save money, or be kinder to others.

Change Your Life One Small Step at a Time

These resolution alternatives will remind you to live life to its fullest as you create a healthier, happier life and become your best self one small step at a time.