You might be a person who loves setting New Year’s goals, and that practice might work very well for you. Awesome. On the other hand, you may be a person who frequently sets such goals, only to discard them a few weeks or month later. The whole process may make you feel like a failure, a feeling which I call the New Year’s Resolution Blues.
You may wonder if there is something you can do instead of setting New Year’s goals.
I have good news for you: there is.
There are, of course, many things you can do instead of setting New Year’s goals. But I will share two things that have helped me. The first is a more general alternative. And the second is more specific. But both them are relaxed and imaginative, and they might be just the thing you need if you are experiencing New Year’s Resolution Blues.
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Alternative #1: Focus on Being Instead of Doing
If you are like a lot of people, you may feel a lot of pressure to do, do, do all the time. This pressure may leave you feeling frazzled, hectic, scattered, anxious, and perpetually stressed.
Of course, there are some things you must do to survive. You need to take care of yourself and your loved ones. And you need to take care of your living space. Of course we need to work.
Some of the things we do are crucial and non-negotiable (like the items above).
But a lot of what we do is driven by fear. For instance, we might fear that if we don’t stay busy all the time, we will look lazy and unproductive. Such feelings may make us doubt our worth.
Or we may fear people’s opinions of us, and so we constantly do more things to make sure that we meet other people’s expectations.
Letting Go of Fear-Based Doing
I know it’s hard to believe sometimes, but the stuff we do out of fear is not necessary; it hurts us, and we can let it go.
One way to let fear-based action go is to focus on being instead of doing by acting with the intention of love towards our self and others.
When we act with the intention of love, we act in a way that shows kindness, compassion, and respect to our self and others. We are as important as everyone else, and our feelings and desires matter. But we also can’t live our life in such a way that is harmful and disrespectful to others. Acting with the intention of love to our self and others helps us well. (You can read more about how to do this here, here, and here.)
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Act with the Intention of Love
The more we act with the intention of love, the more we can rest, let go of fear-based doing, and focus on being.
And there are also some specific activities that help us connect with the intention of love and to focus on being:
Breathing. (You can read more about this here.)
Walking in nature. (You can read more about this here.)
Contemplative practices. (You can read more about this here.)
So, if you would like something to do instead of New Years Goals, set the intention to act with intention of love toward yourself and others this year. And think of one way you can start to do this. And if you mess up, no worries. You always have permission to start again. There is really no such thing as messing up when we act with the intention of love. There is just trying, feedback, and learning.
Alternative #2: Think of how you want to feel.
One reason New Year’s goals are often difficult is that they add a bunch of stuff to our to-do list, like “work out”, “cook dinner five nights a week”, “journal for an hour every morning”, etc.
There is nothing wrong, per se, with such performance-based goals, but sometimes they add a greater quantity of things to our life (which we don’t need), when what we really crave is a qualitatively different way of life—or a life that feels differently.
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Focus on Quality Instead of Quantity
An alternative to performance-based goals is feeling-centered intentions. When you create feeling-centered intentions, you imagine how you want your life to feel in the coming year and choose 3-5 words that describe that feeling. Then set a general intention to do things that brings more of that feeling into your life. This improves the quality of your life and helps you feel better.
For example, I think a lot about how I want my life to feel. Some words that I consistently choose to describe the way I want my life to feel are magical, adventurous, colorful, whimsical, loving, luxurious.
As I go through my day, I think of how I can bring more of these feelings into my life. Here are something things that have made me feel more magical, adventurous, colorful, whimsical, loving, abundant this year:
Walking in the forest near my house regularly.
Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.
Washing bedsheets regularly.
Drawing, painting, and writing.
Having deep conversations with friends.
Spending time reading sacred or contemplative literature.
These are just a few of the things I do to help my life feel more the way I want it to.
Photo courtesy of Me
In addition, choosing the words that describe the way I want my life to feel helps me say “no” to things that do not help me feel the way I want to feel (within reason). Certainly, there are some things I must do that don’t necessarily make me feel immediately magical, adventurous, colorful, etc.
However, there are some activities that are optional—that I could do or not do. Understanding clearly how I want my life to feel can help me figure out if an activity is a good use of my time.
One of the great things about focusing on feelings we want to have is that it helps us control the things in our life we can control and make those a priority whenever we can.
Photo by Annie Spratt, courtesy of Unsplash
If you would like to create a feeling-centered intention for the new year, here’s one way to do it.
One: Think of how you want your life to feel in 2021. (It’s really wise to imagine feelings that are love-centered—see #1 above).
Two: Think of three to five words that describe how you would like to feel and write them down somewhere. (It’s easier to remember them if you write them down.)
If you struggle coming up with words, here are some words that might help:
safe healthy caring
loving adventurous playful
resilient resourceful forgiving
restful homey friendly
powerful flowing open
luxurious pleasurable gracious
sensuous delicious light
hopeful prosperous alive
spiritual joyful peaceful
spacious energetic exuberant
hospitable effective strong
curious inviting romantic
free beautiful nurturing
connected creative thriving
Three: Spend some time thinking about, writing, or discussing with a friend one or several things you could do to bring more of the feeling you want into your life.
You don’t have to make these actions goals. You can just think about doing more things that make you feel good.
Four: Revisit your feeling list when you feel bad.
You and I may have some tough times this year. We may have times this year when life feels really crummy. And won’t be able to control everything that happens this year or everything that causes negative feelings in our life. However, one thing we can control is returning to our list of words describing how we want to feel. And we can do more things that help us feel good in our current situation.
I wish you a year filled with good, loving feelings this year, Friend.
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If you are worried that focusing on feelings too much is dangerous, you might also like this post:
Is Follow Your Heart Good Advice?
And if you are concerned that activities or advice like the ones in the post are a bunch of New Age charlatanry, you might find this post and the footnote at the end of it helpful:
Does Having a Word for the Year Help?
Or if you are afraid people might take advantage of you if you act with the intention of love, you might like this post:
Sticking Up for Yourself and Resisting Bullies and Boundary-Crashers
In addition, if you are intrigued by feeling-based intentions, you might like checking out Stasia Savasuk who explores this concept in connection with how we dress makes us feel. You can check out her work here and here.