The resolution haters guide to making it work this time.

I’ll be honest here. I’ve never held strong on the whole New Year’s resolutions mentality. In fact, I’ve found myself with a side-eyed view towards it for the past few years. This is because of the idea that there is this special time of year where we evolve to become a better version of ourselves felt frenetic for me. It also seemed to remind me of all the things I didn’t do. As a result, I felt more ashamed than encouraged.

What’s my Beef with New Year’s Resolutions?

I realize that this feeling of mine likely has more to do with how I am defining “evolve” and “better version” at the stroke of midnight on January 1. If I really reflect, somewhere along the line I have created an expectation of what this change needs to look like, and that expectation is often not in short-term reach. As a result, it’s not in long-term reach either.

Despite that, I manage to come up with a semblance of things I want to “achieve” or “do differently”. The thing is, I’m really good at the big picture, but I’m not naturally or enthusiastically attuned to detail. I’m not a planner by nature. Before I got into the routine, you could probably find three un-filled calendars and two halfway done journals in my desk. I rarely used to set a strict timeline for myself unless there were external forces like work deadlines or assignment dates. A lot of this is a part of my personality type. I’m motivated by fun, not the end result. 

So I’d say that it’s roughly one part my interpretation of resolutions, and two parts my personality type. Therefore, I need to develop a new personality type. The End.

Just kidding. I’m too narcissistic for that! In reality, there’s nothing wrong with all of our unique personality types and resulting strengths and weaknesses. However, we should definitely be aware of our types, so that we can fit our expectations, goals and habits with these quirks in mind. I love 16 personalities and Enneagram.

Putting the Dream into Action

So, how do we go about making all these factors work together? 

  1. Clearly Define Your Expectations: First, what we need to work on adjusting, or setting clearly, are our expectations. And that starts with definition. What do we expect change to look like? How quickly or slowly? How small or big? How realistic or fantastical?

  2. ID Your Personality Type: How do we ensure we cater to our strengths as a way to keep us motivated, engaged, and successful? First, take a reputable personality test if you haven’t already! Then, take note of what motivates you and what doesn’t, and integrate that into your setting. 

Let’s use one of my “resolutions” (eye roll) as an example.

I have a vision of traveling more. Here’s where my mind naturally goes with this… In a montage style, I see visuals of an impulsive drive down the coast to Mexico for a weekend, an indulgent trip to Europe exploring Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France in #Instaworthy wardrobes, horseback riding in Napa Valley, and whale watching off the coast of Canada. Cool, cool. Who’s with me? Let’s do it.

Now, here’s the issue. What I outlined above is only big picture, there are no details of how to make it happen and no actual commitment. Plus the fun part isn’t until the very end. If I want to travel more, then I need to:

  1. Decide what that will specifically look like

  2. Identify the details and/or adjustments needed to get there

  3. Make sure I cater at least somewhat to my key motivation (fun and play) along the way

Let’s break this down even more. So first, what do I want this expectation to look like?

WHAT: Travel more

WHY: To explore more of the world, learn more about myself, create new memories with the people I love, have fun and try things I’ve never done.

WHERE: I am setting an expectation of going somewhere outside of San Diego. That could be Europe, but it could ALSO be a $120 round trip flight to San Francisco or a two-hour drive to Joshua Tree.

WHEN: I am setting an expectation of doing this once every two-three months. I’m giving myself a little span because life happens.

EXTRA FUN: I am setting an expectation to go someplace I’ve never been three times this year.

Second, What adjustment might be necessary?

MONEY: Ugh, money. I need to have it. So I have to cut out unnecessary spending in the travel time frames. However, I need to make sure I don’t get rid of my fun so I’ll reduce eating out, Ubereats, and limit my Anthropologie purchases (brb, crying). I’ll keep spending in areas like fun activities and other social engagements.

TIME: This one shouldn’t be too difficult, but I need to make the time. This looks like booking the flight/hotel or other travel accommodations. Knowing me, if I wait for the right time, it won’t happen. However, if I set it enough in advance and put the money towards it, I’ll prioritize it.

Lastly, how do I keep my motivation up?

FUN: I incorporated these into the previous two areas. For my expectations, I made sure the travel type was achievable enough to be frequent, ensuring I’m receiving regular doses of fun as a reward. Also, I made sure the necessary adjustments didn’t deplete me of fun until I got to the “reward”. I can still play along the way!

The End Result and Other Thoughts

Full disclosure that this was my New Year’s resolution for 2019 and sticking to it was super awesome and rejuvenating! I’ve already posted my favorite moments from my travels on Instagram.

So, I already have some evidence that setting this into action is totally worth it. Now, this doesn’t mean I didn’t slip up. In fact, I expected to. I’m human, and stuff happens.

However, starting out I knew I was much more likely to realize this vision of what I really, truly wanted to do because I had turned my daydream into clear expectations. And I did it in a way that still aligns with my personality type and strengths. There’s no perfect calendar, no hard rules, no fun deprivation. I could still be flexible and let the wind take me where it does without feeling shame. And that, to me, sounds like a good resolution. Ugh..resolution.

What has your experience been like with setting resolutions? I challenge you to use these strategies if you find yourself slipping as I did. Let me know how it goes in the comments below, and if you have tips and tricks yourself, please share!