As the New Year approaches, we start to think about the year ahead, schemes and plans and great ideas pop into our heads. We silently vow that this year, we will faithfully follow our resolutions. Maybe there’s a different way?

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

A few years ago, I took a different approach. Maybe it was the experiences of age and the little nuggets of wisdom we collect along the way. Maybe the inspiration of my brilliant and strong-willed daughters? They inspire me so much in life. I’ve shared the idea with friends and family and many have adopted it. 

It’s an approach that can guide you through the year and enables you to “check-in” along the way in a more positive way. It reduces the stress of disappointment when that list slowly fades away and as spring rolls around, we feel we’ve not made the progress we committed to. So what is this approach?

Three Steps to Better New Years Resolutions

I call it the Annual Theme Plan. Instead of sitting down and writing an ambitious yet perhaps impossible list to live up to, I come up with the three main themes that will guide me through the year. From those themes, I write down a few ways in which they can become meaningful and practicable. Here’s how it works;

Step One: Think in the bigger picture of what you’d like to look back on at the end of the next year and feel good about. Be mindful and don’t set a goal you can’t realistically attain. Be rational and practical. Write down three main ideas for the next year.

Step Two: Listen to your mind and your gut and from the three main ideas you came up with. Now, write down three Theme Words as I call them. Say, for example, you want to be more active, you want to be more considerate of others and you want to spend more time outdoors. So your three Theme Words might be; 1) Kinetic, 2) Mindful and 3) Nature.

Step Three: Now you have your three Theme Words, you can write a bullet list or a paragraph, whichever works for you with words or short sentences about what each theme means to you. Write them down on paper and somewhere digital, such as a notes app on you smartphone and laptop/tablet. You’ll want to have them easily accessible through the year. I print out the three words in large font on a piece of paper and put them on the wall in my office at work and home as a constant reminder.

If you want to, use a To Do app (I like Things 3 or ToDoIst) and you can make a header for each theme word and list activities that tie in to each of those words. The key take-away is that three words/themes are easy to remember and reflect on through the year. You can more easily shift your desired actions according to the seasons and the constant changes of our lives throughout the year. You’ll feel less guilt and remorse and find that as you repeat these words in times of meditation or reflection that you start to take actions and make decisions around the themes you chose. In a way, it’s like making positive affirmations throughout the year. It’s very empowering. Give it a try and next December, check in and see how you feel!

More Inspiration: Check out this awesome article on how to be your own cheerleader!

Author: Giles Crouch is a design anthropologist and Group Publisher at HUM@Nmedia and often writes about the intersection of people and technology. He writes articles for Optimyz print and digital and has been interviewed regularly by news media.

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