What is it about New Year’s Resolutions that makes them so polarising? So Marmite? In one camp, you’ve got the vision board obsessives, with their scissors, old lifestyle mags and pinboards at the ready. One mention of manifesting their dream life, and their eyes light up with visionary zeal. In the other camp, you’ve got the sceptics who love to point out that only 25% of us actually stick to our resolutions beyond January. I have to admit, I find myself somewhere in between the two. I love the idea of manifesting and visualisation, but I have yet to fully give them a go. I also know that I’ve only ever stuck with one resolution in my life, which was last year’s goal to read more books (I’m on 79 for 2019). And that, I suspect, had more to do with my dodgy wifi than any determination and resolve on my part.
Over the past few years, as #hustleculture has taken over social media, it feels like the pressure surrounding making and achieving lofty resolutions has increased dramatically. Instagram stories allow us to track every second of our lives, and it can feel like all we’re seeing is 7am gym sessions, green juices and days packed full of impressive meetings. Funny how we don’t hear about the mornings when people oversleep, the pitches they didn’t actually win, and the skipped workouts (for months on end).
So this year, I’ve decided to do things differently. I’ve been canvassing my most resolution-mad friends and acquaintances to find out how they manage to keep themselves on track all 12 months of the year. The good news is this: hard-and-fast measurable resolutions aren’t the only way of achieving great things. If, like me, you find resolutions don’t really do it for you, join me in trying something different for 2020.
Word of the year
One alternative which seems to be gaining traction is picking a word of the year. I know, I know, it feels like a lot of pressure to pick one word for the entire year. Fans of this practice say that the word is supposed to be symbolic, and stands for a more general attitude you want to take forward into the new year. An example would be ‘growth’ or ‘learning’, or indeed ‘flourish’. This word is then supposed to guide you through the year, gently reminding you to seek out experiences that will allow you to really live that word. I’ve been told that I’m not allowed to pick ‘wine’ as my word.
In a similar vein, you could also choose to set intentions rather than resolutions. They’re not massively different, but intentions are basically a watered-down version: think of something you’d like to achieve, but without the suffocating pressure of a resolution. I have a feeling intentions would be too lax for me, but from the ultra-scientific poll I conducted amongst my Instagram followers, a sizeable number of us are turning to this alternative form of resolution.
At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got S.M.A.R.T. goals for the organisation fanatics amongst us. Not very sexy, but at least they’re better than simple resolutions, because they’re measurable and structured. For a goal to fit the S.M.A.R.T. criteria, it should be Specific (not just ‘get fit, but rather ‘be able to run 10km’) and Measurable (not ‘get richer’, but rather ‘earn an extra £30,000’). It should also be Attainable (surprised they even needed to point this out…), Relevant to your life, and Timely, ie you assign deadlines to your goal. Not exactly rocket science, but this clear structure might work well for you if you like the hand-holding that comes with guidelines.
2020 Bucket List
If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, the idea of a bucket list for the year might appeal to you. It’s a nice positive way to look at the year ahead, and I like the fact that thinking about your bucket list would elicit excitement, replacing the somewhat scolding approach of traditional resolutions.
A hell of a lot can change in a year. This time last year, I would never have guessed I’d be running a business full time, have a column in a national newspaper, and have been quoted in Forbes (#hypeyourself – shoutout to Lucy Werner). Honestly, it’s practically impossible to envisage where I’ll be in December 2020, so the idea of monthly challenges really appeals to me. I’ve done this before, giving up chocolate for one depressing month in January 2010. I survived (just about), but as the clock struck midnight on February 1st, I was diving into a bag of M&Ms, which wasn’t really the point of the challenge – it was meant to get rid of my sugar cravings, not increase them tenfold…
This year, I’m going with a mashup all of these alternatives. On my bucket list I’ve got ‘visit Colombia, give a talk at my old school, and appear on a podcast’. My intentions are to learn from every experience, immerse myself in business books and podcasts, and to meet as many inspiring women as possible (watch out Found and Flourish events, here I come). My S.M.A.R.T. goal will be launching an online workshop related to content batching and time-saving – keep an eye out! And I’m especially looking forward to giving monthly challenges a try – you can stick with pretty much anything for 31 days, and it’s a good way to test out different ways of living. I haven’t finalised them yet, but I know I’d like to try waking up at 6am for a month (yes, really), doing yoga every day for a month, and giving up screens apart from work. I promise I’m fun. Honestly. Here’s to the New Year.
About the author
Phoebe is Found & Flourish’s resident Business blogger, she is London-born and Frankfurt-, Paris- and Amsterdam-raised. Combining her Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship with 10 years writing for international publications, she’s the founder of BURO155, helping female entrepreneurs achieve their business goals through strategic online content. Phoebe is also a writer, and has written for outlets including the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Next Web, For Working Ladies and Restless Magazine.