How to create lasting resolutions this year
Here we are once again ringing in another year. It’s time to make New Year’s resolutions, hit re-set, and craft your intentions for 2022.
That may sound well and good, but most New Year’s resolutions don’t make it past January, “according to 2018 data from Strava, a social network for athletes. The company analyzed more than 31.5 million fitness records from its users and found that the second Friday in January is the fateful day when most of our annual commitments start to crumble.”
The only good news here is if you have failed previously at keeping your new goals, then you are not alone. This year, let’s improve your chances for success and make this a breakthrough year.
Achieving whole person wellness is an active and conscious process. It does not just happen. It takes persistence, focus, and a consistent plan throughout the year. Resolutions are deeply personal. Your destination will keep changing, regardless of how successful you may become externally. That is life.
As you think about this year’s resolutions, think longer term with actionable steps along the way—a combination of big picture thinking supported by tactical goals. Success requires both. Imagine crossing a river via stepping-stones. In the big picture, you know you want to reach the other side. In the short-term, the stepping-stones are how you are going to get there. Each stepping-stone requires focus, or you will likely fall into the water and not reach the other side.
We truly are the architects of our lives, but taking time to self-focus too often comes last. Make yourself a priority—this is especially important for those distracted by family, lots of social demands, or a busy business. Craft quiet time each day for reflection. You deserve it. Schedule it if that’s what it takes.
We hear a lot about balance these days and the need for it. This year, consider making your overarching goal for 2022 to begin to create a more balanced life. But first, it is important to know exactly how balanced your life is right now and to determine where you should focus moving forward.
These five strategies can help you answer that question and set goals to help you achieve it:
1. Take inventory
On a piece of paper, list the following seven areas in columns or draw them in a pie chart: Joy and Creativity; Purpose (career or how you spend your time); Building Your Community: Social Life and Relationships; Wellness (physical activity, nutrition, sleep, etc.); Finances; Home Environment; and Spirituality.
For each area, give yourself a current score (1 being lowest and 10 as highest). Keep this. You can refer to it throughout the year and reevaluate. Tip: Use a different color each time you recalibrate and note which color goes with which date.
When you finish with this entire exercise, put the document in a place where you can see it frequently.
Be brutally honest. What areas are currently working in your life: in other words, where do you feel satisfied, fulfilled, or even excited? Where does your life fall short? What areas are you ignoring or avoiding altogether? Let’s go through them right now (get out your pens).
This assessment will tell you where you need to focus to achieve balance. For example, you may want to focus on the areas with the lowest scores while continuing to nurture or maintain the ones where you are succeeding.
Just so we are on the same page, let’s take a closer look at each area: Here are suggestions to jumpstart your self-reflection and creative juices:
Joy and Creativity: Many of you do not think much about this area, but how can we spread joy to others if we do not foster it in ourselves? What brings you joy? How do you have fun? Joy and expressing creativity come in many forms—an artistic endeavor, learning something new, making something with your hands, collecting, or even driving fast cars. Whatever it is, be open and available for it. And, if it is not currently on your radar, then reflect and bring this area more into focus.
Purpose (how you spend your time, career, work): This area packs a big wallop, as it not only impacts our satisfaction with life, but also our health and longevity. As noted by the Blue Zones project, a “recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association has linked a strong sense of purpose with a lower risk of all-cause mortality after age 50. They found that participants who had the lowest life-purpose scores were twice as likely to have died than those with the highest scores.”
Identifying one’s life purpose comes easily for some and much harder for others. It may change over time. So, if you are in touch with your life’s purpose, what more can you do to nourish it further and enact it? If you are still trying to identify it, then focus on exploring it and what activities you can undertake to do that. Make that exploration a fun and enjoyable process. Perhaps you can allot one or two hours a day for that? Or even 20 minutes? What would that exploration look like?
Building Your Community: Social Life and Relationships: Loneliness kills—more than smoking, surprisingly. Being connected is key to our well-being. Think how you could find deeper nurture in community and relationships, in the ones you already have, and new ones you might add. How can you nurture others (which in turn nurtures you)? How can you deepen or insert more enjoyment into your significant relationships? Are there rituals you want to create, perhaps something as simple as having a coffee together each morning or scheduling regular lunches with friends? Who and what activities or groups feed your soul?
Wellness (physical activity, nutrition, sleep, etc.): This is the most popular focus for New Year’s resolutions, the area everyone thinks about first and, unfortunately, where people tend to fail fast. This is largely because, rather than creating real lifestyle change, we often focus on quick fixes (e.g., losing 10 pounds) or make our resolutions too general (e.g., to get in better shape).
If you are one of those folks who needs a diet or cleansing routine to jumpstart you, that is fine; but, focus on what and how you can sustain that effort in the long term. For example, if you want to maintain or lose weight, can you reduce your carbs or alcohol intake? What does “better shape” mean? Does that mean more cardio, more strength training, more mobility and flexibility training? While doing all of these would be ideal, what can you commit to realistically? For example, cardio three times a week? Strength training twice a week? Stretching 15 minutes each day? Increase from there.
Exercise is a funny thing. The more you do, the more you want to do; the less you do, the lower your motivation, unfortunately. For some folks, it helps to hire a trainer, coach, or nutritionist to kick-start or help them maintain. Perhaps connect with a buddy? If you have trouble sleeping, what changes do you want to make to your sleep and wake routine?
Finances: Even if you are one of the lucky ones not having to worry about money in the day-to-day or long term, you are still not off the hook. What keep you procrastinating? Have you have been delaying on updating your estate plan, opening a donor-advised fund, reallocating your portfolio, expanding into real estate, taking a course or subscribing to (and reading) a particular newsletter to become a savvier investor or to better understand a particular asset class, or aligning your values more closely with your philanthropy?
Home Environment: Think about what can you do to make your home environment more comfortable, healthier, and nurturing? Are you bringing in more beauty or getting rid of clutter? Perhaps you’re making capital improvements, like remodeling, refreshing fixtures or paint, or upgrading furniture? Or maybe you’re making your home environment healthier?
Spirituality: This is a highly personal area, but an important one. For those who prefer the path of organized religion, it could be deepening your involvement with your place of worship. What would that look like: joining a prayer group, the choir, the committee for a sponsored initiative? For others, it could be practicing or learning a new meditation technique or deepening your current one. It could be simply spending more time in nature or taking 20 minutes each day for reflection or gratitude. Or being of service to others.
Are you catching on?
2. Establish a baseline to delve a little deeper
What are you currently doing to nurture yourself in each area? Be specific and write it down. Are these activities working for you? If you are doing nothing, that is okay, but it is also noteworthy. Is there anything you’re currently doing that you want to drop or change?
3. What new goals can you realistically add this year?
Remember, we are talking this year, not your lifetime. Create bite-sized, achievable goals—these are your stepping-stones. You do not have to be superhuman. Do not over commit: that just results in failure. It may be better to focus on a few key areas this year. Make it tangible by writing your commitments under each area you want to address.
When you finish steps one through three, put this document in a place where you will see it frequently.
4. Check in and measure
how you’re doing on a schedule that feels right and sustainable for you. Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly? What have you accomplished? What still needs to be done? Celebrate your successes: have fun with this and forgive transitory transgressions along the way. Do not dwell. Keep moving forward. Adapt your goals, if necessary.
5. Go back to step one
Then proceed again through step five. Growth is a never-ending process.
Congratulations! You are on your way. You can do this! Wishing you a balanced and joyful 2022.
About Lydia Graham
Lydia is a passionate advocate of healthy living. She has launched and positioned many health and wellness- related companies, products, technologies and organizations receiving more than 100 awards nationally and internationally.
Her focus in the health sector is specifically on life sciences, aging and longevity. She is a partner and investor in several recognized national brands.
She sits on the board of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging whose mission is to eliminate the threat of age-related disease for today’s and future generations.
It is the only independent research organization globally dedicated to extending the healthy years of life. Like the scientists at the Buck, Graham envisions it will be possible for people to enjoy life at 95 as much as at 25. To support Buck’s mission, please visit www.buckinstitute.org.