The New Year brings with it fresh excitement and collective momentum for goal setting, personal growth, and reflecting, but the word “resolution” rubs me the wrong way every time. It implies that we did something wrong, and that next year, we need to try to resolve it. That negativity feels unproductive to me — plus, statistics show most people who resolve to make changes in January rarely stick to them past February, and come spring have likely forgotten them all together.

I do think, however, that harnessing the energy of a fresh start (like a new calendar year) to assess where you are and where you want to go is a positive practice. Tapping into the collective momentum towards growth and change early in the year is an excellent time to vision, check in, and goal set, but honestly any time you’re willing and excited to make a change is the ideal time to do it… regardless of the season. (In my own experience, I’ve found the more frequently I check in with myself the better.)

Nevertheless, ‘tis the season for collective self-improvement, so here are some resolution alternatives you can try…

Clarity is key —

Voltaire said, “Life punishes the vague wish but rewards the specific ask.” Spend some time envisioning how you want your life to feel 5, 10, and 30 years from now. Then write out who you would need to become to be a person to live that life. What skills do you need to learn? What habits and routines would you need to pick up? What tools and resources would help you? Who would you need to surround yourself with to believe it’s possible? How would you behave? What about you would need to change?

Follow this up by breaking down how and when over the next year you will make these changes. Not all at once, of course, but planning how you can incrementally move in that direction, little by little, will help exponentially.

Focus on feelings —

“Knowing how you want to feel is the most potent form of clarity,” says Danielle LaPorte. Indeed, setting goals can often give us a high when we set them, however can leave us feeling underwhelmed when we meet or exceed them. We tend to wish we’d aimed higher or feel bad about ourselves when we fail to reach them.

When we focus on how we want to feel on the way to the goal we are more in control of our happiness. We often assume reaching a goal is the only way to feel happiness, joy, or connection, and in doing so, we fail to realize that these feelings are also attainable on the way to the goal (or even without the goal all together). Goals are fleeting while feelings are fluid.

When I focus less on what I want and more on how I want to feel I get more clarity on the direction I want to move my life in. Using my feelings as a roadmap for where I want to focus has been my best compass. What feeling will your goal bring you? How can you feel more of that emotion now? Why do you want to attain your goal — is it praise, admiration, love? If so, perhaps you can seek that feeling in another way.

Fewer resolutions, more personal inventory

Setting goals and intentions once a year for the entire year ahead seems silly in a world of constant flux and change.

What I want day-to-day changes, well… daily, and unless I check in with myself often I might be following a pre-planned goal in a direction I don’t even desire anymore.

Allowing yourself to change is an act of self-care in itself. The only way to fully know your desires is to slow down enough to hear them. When we’re constantly multitasking, distracted, and rushed our self-awareness goes out the window. Frequently setting aside time to check in with ourselves, assess where we are, gain clarity on where we want to go, and figure out a plan to move ourselves into the direction of our desires is much more effective than only doing so yearly. (I’ve found quarterly or even monthly to be most effective.)

Choose a particular day of the month — perhaps around the new moon? — and put it in your calendar. Use that day to check in with yourself. Get out your journal and ask yourself some directed questions like: What do I want to feel more of? What new feelings am I craving? What actions can I take to help me feel that way? What experiences would make me feel that way? What do I want to feel less of? What has been holding me back? What do I want to release?

Final check in

Once you have your goals and intentions in place, Tim Ferriss recommends asking yourself one final question: What would your goals feel like if they were easy? Fun? Enjoyable?

Our goals don’t need to always be painstakingly hard to achieve. They can be fun, enjoyable, and yes, even easy along the way!

Let me know your goals below in the comments…

Katie Dalebout is a writer, host, and founder of Let [a podcast] Out, a workshop that helps people DYI podcast. Since 2013, she has interviewed over 250 people on her long-form interview show, Let It Out. Her first book, Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling is a collection of personal essays and journaling prompts that was published in 2016. She now writes about her feelings monthly in her Let It Out Letter. Katie, her feelings, and all of her plants live together in Manhattan.

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