A flexible, intentional approach to being your best self in 2024
It’s that time of year again! December is a month of closure, a perfect chance to pause, reflect, and envision aspirations for the coming New Year. Observing January 1st isn’t just about refreshing the calendar — for many, it’s also a time to wipe our personal slates clean from the past year, and resolve to do better in the next.
Humans have been making New Years resolutions like this for thousands of years, all the way back to ancient Babylonia. Each new planting season was marked at the spring equinox with a massive 12-day religious festival, where participants promised to pay debts and return objects they had borrowed. These are thought to be the first recorded resolutions in history!
The Ancient Romans carried on a similar practice, except their new year was celebrated January 1st to coincide with their updated calendar. They named the month for “Janus,” their god of beginnings and transitions, often depicted with two faces: one looking back and the other ahead. Romans offered sacrifices to Janus, acknowledging their failings and making promises to improve their conduct in the coming year.
Today, society embraces this spirit of renewal and purpose in the persistent practice of setting New Years resolutions. Not to be dismissive, but about 80% of us give up on our resolutions by January 19th! If these odds sound depressing, think of the emotional consequences too. We can’t discount the psychological impact of feeling disappointed, guilty, and self-critical.
Yes, it’s good to set ambitious goals in our lives. But we also need to set ourselves up for success. Let’s reconsider this resolution game: turn down the pressure, and envision a more mindful, practical approach to personal development.
The Secret is Setting Intentions
Intentions are much less rigid than resolutions – instead of a roadmap from point A to B, they’re more like a compass pointing us in the right general direction. Well-set intentions give us realistic action steps we can choose every day to get us closer to the goals we have in sight.
The trick to intentional resolutions is to envision small, attainable milestones where each positive change builds on the last. Start with “micro-moments”, those everyday patterns and interactions that ultimately shape our lives.
Let’s say you want to make a better impression at work. A good place to begin is with your morning commute, where there’s often a choice: we can speed through traffic and scream at other drivers on our way in, or we can use the opportunity to practice punctuality, patience, and other coping skills that would improve our overall performance on the job.
That’s just one instance. As an organized person, I like to make a list of Resolutions and Intentions and would encourage anyone to try it as part of a brainstorming session. On a piece of paper, draw a line down the center to create two columns, one for Resolutions and the other for Intentions. Now think back over 2023, and write down everything you want to do differently in 2024 as a Resolution. Then go back over each item, and in the column beside it write down specific efforts you can choose to take towards this achievement.
Resolution: lose weight/get healthy
Intention: replace mid-day candy bar with apple, take stairs instead of elevator on Fridays, practice one yoga stretch a day, etc.
Resolution: travel abroad
Intention: research travel vlogs for tips, info, and options, add spare change to a trip fund jar, talk to friends/family about their trips, etc.
Resolution: make new friends
Intention: say yes to one invitation a month, watch videos on current events and making small talk, sign up for one class or workshop for this year, etc.
For each Resolution, there’s no limit to the number of Intentions that could apply, the important thing is to keep them all do-able. Every little step helps, even the smallest accomplishment boosts confidence and motivation, increasing our chances for continuing positive outcomes.
The best part is, we have until December 31st to work on our lists, adding and tweaking Intentions to give ourselves a sure and gentle path to follow in the New Year. Here’s to sustainable resolutions in 2024!
Warmest wishes for every success. Please share your thoughts and comments below.