Did you make a New Year’s resolution and are finding it hard to keep? Here’s a simple tip to rethink your approach to resolutions – one your brain will simply love if one specific resolution is feeling tricky.
If you’re already tired of your New Year’s resolution, don’t worry, you’re not alone. About 9 in 10 state that their New Year’s resolution was a failed one. Maybe you were a little overly ambitious, but you may also have fallen into one of these two common psychological traps (originally cited in our post “7 rules to make a New Year’s resolution that sticks”):
“It felt soooo good in January – what happened?”
1 | The “False Hope Syndrome” Psychologist Janet Polivy says this happens when we get overly confident: we think achieving our goal will be fast, and the payoff will be big. When we can’t see any changes by February, false hope makes us discouraged and we give up.
2 | “Affective forecasting” It felt soooo good in January to commit to your new writing schedule, and you thought writing would be easy. But expectations and reality didn’t meet. Psychologist Tim Pychyl says this makes you put it off “until you feel like it”, and you never get into your new routine.
Resolutions are plagued with these kinds of challenges – and when we hit a bump in the road, we give up.
From resolutions to “Me Themes” for the year
Here’s a different way to think about New Year’s resolutions.
It’s an approach I’ve used personally for a few years now. It’s not based on resolutions but on yearly “Me Themes”. In short:
- Goals: Think about the goals you have, or something you’d like to achieve
- Themes: Figure out one or two themes that support this. That’s your year “me theme”.
- Concrete actions: Then, on a weekly or daily basis – find small actions that support your theme
For example, here are some goals and themes of my own and others:
Goal: “Break my technology addiction and reduce time on the phone”
Theme: Mindful Technology
Goal: “Grow the company 5x”
Theme: Proactive Leadership
Goal: “Keep the relationship alive despite a hectic family routine”
Goal: “Figure out what to do with my life, my relationship and my home base”
Why a “Me Theme” works – resolves ambiguity while giving focus
A “Me Theme” works firstly, because a small, specific resolution alone does not work in every situation.
You should do those too, but you simply can’t grow your company 5x or figure out your whole life with just one resolution. Large goals and life changes can be ambiguous, and hence they’re often better tackled with a ‘Me Theme’ because it helps you figure out and be flexible around the concrete actions you need to be taking.
To fulfil a theme of “Proactive Leadership” your concrete actions might be taking one-on-one walks with your whole team this week, making leadership an action point in your weekly planning, or signing up for a leadership course next month.
One resolution won’t cut it, many steps in the right direction will.
“Large goals and life changes can be ambiguous … you simply can’t grow your company 5x or figure out your whole life with just one resolution”
Secondly, ‘Me Themes’ work because they give your brain focus.
Your brain is essentially a “deletion device” – it would go insane if it would take in all the stimuli coming at it. Instead we filter out some things and pay attention to others.
A silly example, but I recently changed the milk in my coffee to oat milk. And whereas I had never noticed it before, all of a sudden the Oatly brand (a Swedish oat milk) was EVERYWHERE. I saw it in cafés, the local grocery store, on street signs, in my friend’s fridge, in the dumpster on the street. It started feeling quite spooky to be followed like that. Where was that brand before? Well, there it was all along. My brain had simply deleted the impression, because it wasn’t relevant for my life.
“Deciding on a specific theme makes you see the world differently: you’ll see opportunities everywhere because now your brain is tuning in to that stimulus”
The same goes for a ‘Me Theme’. Deciding on a specific theme makes you see the world differently: you’ll see opportunities everywhere because now your brain is tuning in to that stimulus. This makes is easier to spot the concrete actions you could be taking.
If your theme is eroticism in your relationship, you may find a book on the topic, you’ll spot a free night in your calendar and book a date night, you’ll chat about the topic with a friend, your eyes will land on the hot lingerie when you’re rushing through the mall.
It’s like putting on a new pair of glasses, ones that are tuned into supporting your goal, while allowing your creative self to flourish.
So, what could your “Me Theme” for the rest of this year be?
– Nora, Co-Founder and COO of Fifth Corner Inc., creators of YOU-app