Looking forward to a healthier, happier 2024? Here’s why you should stop making New Year’s resolutions (and what you should focus on instead)
I’d like to start by asking how many of you made New Year’s resolutions this year. If your answer is “yes”, I’m going to (rather radically) propose that the best thing you can do for yourself this year is to throw that resolution right out the window! To explain, in line with my discussions around wellness and fulfillment in previous articles, there is a growing body of research that suggests that our true happiness is not out there in the projected achievement of a future goal, but rather to be found right here in the present moment. Here are my top tips to help you grow towards your true goals while staying committed to what will ultimately create happiness for you on a day-to-day basis:
1. Don’t set yourself up for failure
When we set rigid expectations for ourselves that are future-oriented, we can not only set ourselves up for failure, but also prevent ourselves from experiencing the simple joys and satisfaction that are offered to us on a daily basis – the act of which is linked with a whole host of psychological and physical health benefits. Internationally renowned author and motivational speaker, Dr. Wayne Dyer, advocates the same approach to getting the most out of this year for his readers. He believes that traditional New Year’s resolutions don’t create empowerment or help individuals move towards true personal fulfillment, and advises:
“Forget about deciding on the first day of January how you will be conducting your life in September, some nine months later – [because] you can only live minute to minute.”
He goes on to humorously challenge the notion that future-oriented resolutions work, saying “You can go about resolving until the cows come home, and you still have to live your life just like everyone else on the planet: One day at a time.” To echo Dr. Dyer’s sentiments, I’d therefore like you to this year ask yourself a different question as a guide to making 2023 your best year yet:
“How am I going to live in the present moment this year?”
In saying this, however, I will admit it would be somewhat impractical of me to suggest that you shouldn’t ever have any long-term ambitions, goals or dreams. To be clear, that’s not what I’m advocating; what I am saying is that you shouldn’t aspire to these projected ideals in a way that consumes your ability to savour being present with yourself and those around you on a day-to-day basis. How can you strike this balance between keeping your aspirations alive and flexible while being present with your life as it unfolds?
2. Surrender Your “Story”
If we’re honest, we all have tapes that we play in our heads about ourselves, and this goes beyond the negative thoughts that we might have on any given day. I’m talking about negative truths about who we believe we are that we’ve told ourselves since childhood. This year, I challenge you to listen in and become more aware of the things you’ve been telling yourself “are true” – and to challenge them.
Are they still true? Are they serving you? If they no longer have bearing on your life in the present or where you want to go, make an active decision to give them less importance in your present life. You’re in charge of the story you want to create for you and your family moving forward, so if the narrative from the past is not aligned with what you want to create in the present, let it go.
3. Connect with Aspirations that Make you Feel Good
When you choose to set goals for yourself, choose ones that make you feel strong in the present, instead of lacking in some way. This is not so much about the content of the goal you’re setting for yourself, but how it makes you feel. For example, if the goal “I would like to lose 10kg” makes you feel disempowered and bad about who you are in the present, it will result in creating internal tension and possible self-sabotaging behaviours.
On an unconscious level, we are motivated to move towards thoughts that empower us, so if the goal that you set for yourself makes you feel bad, it is unlikely that you will act in a way that consistently moves you towards making it a reality. On the flip side, if you set goals that make you feel strong, excited and inspired, you are much more likely to engage in behaviours that help you get there.
4. Allow Your Dreams to Evolve
While you of course have licence to dream and have future-oriented goals, the power of these aspirations to continue to hold true to you and align with your present comes from your own personal flexibility around them. Who you are at the end of one day may be different from the day before. You may meet someone, watch a talk, read something, or partake in an activity that changes how you feel about the dreams you had the day before — and that’s ok! Give yourself permission to allow these dreams to evolve with you so you can continue to remain connected with them in an authentic way.
5. Set Day-to-Day Goals
From a practical perspective, this is about breaking down those long-term goals into what they translate into on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps you have a long-term goal to complete your MBA; great, but what does this mean on a day-to-day basis, and what do you have to achieve today to get there? Can you learn to stay present with the small steps that you have to get done today to get there, and do them to your fullest capacity without drowning in the bigger endgame and associated expectations? Can you find joy in accomplishing the steps that you had to take today to get to where you want to be in a few months/years from now?
6. Notice the Flowers
This final word is about remembering to notice the beauty that is present all around you at any given moment. It could be in the smile of a stranger walking by, the feel of the breeze as it brushes past you on a particularly hot afternoon, or the sound of the first drops of rain. Some of our happiest moments are when we are most present with the natural occurrences that happen around us on a daily basis and these – if we pay attention – bring us easily back into living in the now.
So take time to notice how things look and feel as you wake up on any given day; how things taste or smell as you go through your day; and your final sensations before you go to bed at night. This simple act of bringing yourself consistently into your current experience of life will connect you not only with the present moment, but also all the possibilities you have to move towards your aspirations, and create the life you want in every minute of each day.
Here’s to a happy and fulfilled 2024!