As a psychotherapist, I've watched countless people create positive change in their lives. But it's rare that I've seen anyone change their lives after making a New Year's Resolution.
Think about it. When was the last time you heard someone say, "I lost 50 pounds last year thanks to my New Year's resolution!" or "I finally paid off all my debt after I created that New Year's resolution"?
Depending on which study you read, an estimated 88 to 92 percent of people fail to keep their New Year's resolutions. Yet, despite the dismal probability of success, most people continue to declare a new year will bring about new habits.
If you really want to make 2018 your best year yet, think beyond the traditional New Year's resolution. These alternatives will help you go on more adventures, connect with amazing people, learn new things, and grow stronger:
1. Establish a New Goal Each Month
Rather than establish a huge resolution that you'll tackle for the next 365 days, establish monthly goals for yourself. Perhaps January will be the month you go to the gym before work three times a week. And February will be the month you tackle packing your lunches instead of eating out every day.
You might Decide to create a 12-month calendar that outlines each month's goal ahead of time or you may decide to just pick January's goal for now.
The key to success is to pick measurable goals. So rather than say, "I'll manage my money better this month," commit to a goal like, "I'll save $500 this month." Short-term, realistic goals can help you stay motivated to keep going.
2. Keep Track of Your Healthy Habits
Stay flexible and leave room for spontaneity by tracking your healthy habits every day. So instead of setting out to accomplish specific things each week or month, you might simply track the healthy choices you make each day.
At the end of the day, write down three healthy things you did that day on a calendar. Having a visual aid that displays your accomplishments--even small ones like ordering the salad instead of the burger or taking the stairs instead of the elevator--will motivate you to keep up the good work.
You might also pick a healthy habit that you want to track--like going to the gym. Rather than set out to go to the gym five times a week, simply decide that each time you go you'll put a marble inside a jar. When the jar gets full, treat yourself to something nice (just make sure the treat doesn't involve something that will sabotage your progress).
3. Develop a Mantra
Rather than decide 2018 is going to be the year that you "save more money," create a mantra that says, "Buy only what you need." Then, commit to following that mantra without any strict rules or rigid guidelines. When you're shopping, remind yourself of your mantra.
A mantra can feel more positive and empowering than a resolution. After all, you either fail or succeed with a resolution but a mantra becomes a way of life.
Of course, that doesn't mean you won't tune out your mantra and throw caution to the wind sometimes--you will. But, if you keep repeating it in your head, the message will sink in and your behavior will change over time.
4. Conduct Weekly Experiments
Rather than make 2018 the time you're going to engage in grueling habits or deprive yourself of anything fun, decide to make it a year of curiosity. Establish weekly experiments that test out various habits or that challenge you to do new things.
One week you might decide to talk to five strangers every day just to see what happens. If you approach it with an open mind you might discover that your mood improves or that you make new friends.
Or, you might set out to go for a brisk morning walk before you start your work day. You might discover that it gives you more energy throughout the whole day.
You can do anything for a week. And you just might discover new strategies that you'll want to turn into regular habits--but you won't know unless you try.
5. Make a Bucket List
Choose a whole bunch of things you'd like to do next year. Whether you want to take a Chinese cooking class or you want to fly in a helicopter over Las Vegas, create a list of things you want to do in 2018.
If you pick small things, you might put 52 items on your list and check one item off each week. If you're hoping to do some big things, pick 12 and tackle one item each month.
Having things to look forward to can boost your mood--and when you feel better, you're likely to do better. So you might find you naturally want to get healthy, save money, or be kinder to others when you're enjoying your bucket list items.
Change Your Life One Small Step at a Time
These New Year's resolution alternatives will remind you to live life to it's fullest as you create a healthier, happier life. So give up the idea that you need to pick one big thing to work on and decide that you're going to reach your goals and become your best self one small step at a time.