Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Let’s Resolve to Be More and Do Less In 2022

New Year’s resolutions are a fast track to unmet goals.

Key points

  • New Year’s resolutions don’t set us up for success; indeed, they often accomplish the exact opposite.
  • A global pandemic has taught us to be adaptable with planning.
  • Instead of big New Year’s resolutions, think in terms of micro-plans.
 Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Game pieces spell out the words: make a plan
Source: Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

By now, it should be clear to everyone that no good comes from New Year’s resolutions. First, there’s plenty of evidence out there that they simply don’t work. They are the worst form of goal-setting: too lofty, poorly written, with no basis in reality and no actual plan behind them.

We say things like, “This is the year I’m going to get my act together!” Or, “This is the year I’m going to make my dreams come true!” Or, worse, “This is the year I’m going to lose those extra pounds!” On the face of it, none of these statements are bad things.

But we all know what happens next. It’s February, you still don’t have your act together, that dream still seems miles away, and chances are, you’ve actually gained a few pounds (hello, winter). New Year’s resolutions don’t set us up for success; indeed, they often accomplish the exact opposite.

On top of that, I hope that the past few years have taught us something about planning too far into the future. Don’t get me wrong. I like a good plan! But in year three of a global pandemic, it ought to be clear that the word of the future is adaptability.

Remember those resolutions you made in January 2020? What happened to those come March? The good news is, you can still plan, and there is a great benefit to it. Having a plan is a great strategy for reducing stress and giving order to a life that may seem disordered.

But when you’re operating during the prolonged stress of a global pandemic, it’s time to think in terms of “micro-plans,” which means planning for the next few months, or weeks, or even just days, not long-term.

Resolutions for This Moment

And so, as we kick off 2022, instead of setting lofty goals for all the ways you plan to change or fix your life in the coming year, I’d like to recommend six simple resolutions for this moment that we each can adapt to our own lives, no matter our situation.

Instead of trying to make that big career change or radically change your physique, what if we all resolve to take a few small steps towards being more and doing less this coming year?

  • Be more present. I certainly hope that one thing we have learned over the past few years is the value of community and relationships and how important it is to show up for one another. This year, I hope we all can resolve to be more present in one another’s lives, but first and foremost, to be present for and with ourselves. What boundaries do you need to set and hold over the next month? How can you intentionally hold space for those things that truly matter to you?
  • Be more gracious and grateful. My goodness, we have learned a lot about our fellow humans over the past few years, and much of it is not pretty. How wonderful would it be if we all resolved to give one another a bit more grace in the coming year and to be grateful for our lives, our health, our jobs, our people, whatever it is that is giving you joy and comfort.

No matter our failings and blind spots, we are all humans on this one earth. A little bit of grace and gratitude will go a long way in 2022 to make this world a bit better. What are one or two things you are grateful for right now?

  • Be more open. What did you learn about yourself in 2021? What did you learn about work, about other people, about other perspectives? How might you use that knowledge going into 2022? This year, I hope we all resolve to listen more, to learn more, and to be more open to perspectives that might differ from our own. Listening doesn’t mean agreeing or supporting. Listening means learning. How can you stay open to learning in the coming months?
  • Do less work. That’s right, it’s back to boundaries, and it’s time for all of us to work less. Let’s flip that “work-life balance” script to “life-work balance” and put as much emphasis on living as we possibly can. If you’re still here, then you’ve survived two-plus years of a global pandemic. That’s worth celebrating. What are one or two things you can let go of to do less work this year?
  • Do less complaining. You could put any number of words here, and I invite you to use the one you need the most. Do less gossiping. Do less griping. Do less “disaster fantasizing” about how the sky is about to fall. Are things perfect? Absolutely not. This doesn’t mean you should be Pollyanna about the state of things.

There isn’t a person alive who wouldn’t wish this terrible virus would be gone tomorrow. Your job may not be perfect. Your relationship may not be perfect. Your life may not be in the place where you imagined it would be. You’re allowed to feel bad/sad/mad about that.

But as a good friend once told me, after a bad breakup, I’m giving you one week to wallow. Then stop complaining and do something to fix it.

  • Do less living up to false expectations. Finally, I hope 2022 is the year we stop trying to live other people’s lives. Stop comparing yourself to what’s happening on social media and stop listening when others tell you which milestone you “should” have reached.

You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Every choice, every decision you have made in your life has led you to this moment. Embrace that. Don’t live in the what-ifs and the should have’s. Own the life you are living right now. Then ask yourself, where do I want to go next? What is one small step that I could take in the next few months to get there?

More from Allison E McWilliams Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today