We all know that New Year’s resolutions, for the most part, fail. Beyond setting us up for guilt and unhealthy self-criticism come February, resolutions prove ineffective by draining our ego and our willpower, without an authentic grounding for change. I have tried them, with middling success. I’ve tried the alternatives, everything from writing a manifesto for the year to elaborate matrices of written goals broken down into achievable steps. The result? Some progress, but honestly, for what?
In 2015, I tried a new technique for capitalizing on the arbitrary but still meaningful change in calendar year: defining a theme for the year. This year, I committed to the theme “make.” I printed out that one word and hung it around my office so that I could see it from every line of sight. Over the course of the year, among other things, I wrote more than I have in a long time, I took a painting class and created a few paintings, and I even founded Kindness Communication. Without holding myself to specifics or berating myself for missed objectives, I am coming out of the year stronger and more focused, and I believe that themes versus resolutions offer us a kinder and more effective path to personal growth.
For 2016, I have chosen a new theme: “look up.” I like that it means a wide range of things, from authentically meeting the gaze of people whom I encounter and sending them kindness to eagerly, optimistically embracing the future, despite the endless churning of bad news that can easily become an addiction. I see the phrase “look up” as shorthand for taking a position that embraces and engages with my surroundings with greater focus and connectedness.
While I couldn’t tell you now how looking up will manifest itself in concrete actions I take in 2016, I feel confident it will serve as a powerful tool for me as I literally and figuratively meet the year ahead of me with a direct gaze.
With that in mind, if you followed suit, what would you choose as your own defining theme for 2016, rather than making resolutions?