Picking A Theme For Next Year

Are you planning to set a New Year’s resolution for 2021?

After the way 2020 has gone, I’m not sure what most people are thinking about this. Do you plan specific resolutions hoping to make 2021 a better year than the last? Avoid resolutions because you’re just in survival mode?

At the beginning of 2019, I shared a post called “Encourage Your Hopes, Not Your Fears,” which talked about the idea of setting an intention for the year rather than making specific resolutions. Resolutions are notoriously easy to break. It’s far more rare to meet someone who actually stuck with a New Year’s resolution and saw it improve their life than it is to meet someone who broke their resolutions almost as soon as they’d made them.

Abandoning resolutions can be disheartening, even though it’s pretty much expected. Resolutions are usually about some kind of positive change–loose 15 pounds, read 1 new book each month, eat less sugar–and when we don’t meet those goals we send ourselves the message that making positive change is hard/impossible. We might laugh at our weakness or joke about how hard it is to keep resolutions, but I think it still discourages us if we set goals that we know we’re unlikely to meet. You’re not going to convince yourself change is possible by setting yourself up to fail.

Just because resolutions aren’t a great form of goal setting, though, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resolve to make steady improvements each year. Personal growth is about forward progression over time. We don’t have to get all our growth work out of the way within the next couple of months (nor should we expect that’s possible). Growing is something we do our whole lives, and it often happens in cycles. We go through periods where it feels like we’re spinning our wheels and times when it’s easy to see our progress.

It is often far more useful to have a broad intention or theme for growth, which can adapt as our lives change, rather than a more specific resolution that we’re likely to break. This idea brings us to a video from CGP Gray that I’d like to share:

Whether you call it a theme, intention, or something else, setting a broad and adaptable goal for the year (or for parts of the year) can be a fantastic alternative to the traditional New Year’s resolution. This is about changing the trend of your life in manageable ways. For example, CGP Gray talks about his “Year of Novelty” and “Year of Order,” as well as suggesting “Year of Reading” or “Year of Health” as possible themes. Themes are what he calls a “fuzzy, high level, longer-term way to navigate your brain” that help you “build a life you want to live.” Themes like this might last a year. Or you might pick two themes and devote half the year to each. Or you could change themes with the seasons. It’s up to you.

You could even pick a theme that you’re already working on. For example, I’ll be starting my second semester of grad school as the New Year begins. I could call 2021 my “Year of Learning” and make it my intention to take opportunities to learn when they come up. That could involve making the most of classes I’m already taking, saying “yes” when opportunities like publishing an article or attending a conference open up, or reading a few more non-fiction books that don’t directly relate to my classes. If I have the time, maybe I finally take a class in sign language or first-aid like I’ve been wanting to do for years. Or I could learn some of the baking techniques that intrigue me when I’m watching The Great British Baking Show. I don’t have a specific resolution so all of these could work, and if I only do some of them (or do something else learning related that’s not on this list) them I’ve still participated in a Year of Learning.

What do you think of choosing a theme for the new year instead of a resolution? Do you have an idea of what sort of theme or intention you’d like to set? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Featured image by Dung Tran from Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.