At the end of the year, many of us review the past year and look toward the future.
Part of that process is making resolutions and setting goals for the coming year. Sometimes they are grand goals. Other times they are simple goals. In many cases, resolutions are nothing more than laundry lists of things we wish we could do or we wish we had.
At the end of 2015, I decided that 2016 would be a year of no resolutions. This was a big deal for me because I had set (and mostly kept) resolutions each year since turning 16.
But, still reeling from my divorce earlier that year, and unsure of where to go with my life next, I decided to make 2016 a year of exploration instead of one of resolutions.
And it has been glorious.
It was impossible to fail this year.
One of the downsides to setting New Year’s resolutions is that it’s easy to feel like a failure. And you feel like that failure three weeks in. It sucks.
Sure, you can set better goals or break them down into more manageable chunks. But in the end, you’re probably worried more about failing than making good progress.
All I did this year was learn about myself. I couldn’t fail. My year of no resolutions was about trying new things, figuring out my life’s purpose, and sometimes even being a complete hot mess.
My year of no resolutions meant I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I was on track to hit a milestone. And because I didn’t have to worry about failure, I went ahead and tried things I wouldn’t normally have done.
There was no bar, no benchmark, and no failure.
Sometimes you need to maintain.
People kept asking me what I hoped to accomplish. A few were shocked when I told them I was just about maintenance.
That’s right: 2016 was about maintenance.
It was about getting myself squared away. It wasn’t about moving forward or growing my business or even really becoming a better person.
I just wanted to maintain myself while I figured shit out.
Sometimes you need that.
I live in a world where everyone around me is pushing for more. More subscribers. More money. More conversions. More media mentions. The next course. The next product.
The next, the next. More. MORE. MOAR.
Hell, I couldn’t even keep up on my own blogs the last few months.
There’s nothing wrong with pushing. I plan to start pushing again soon. But sometimes it’s OK to slow down. To stand in one place. To get your bearings.
My year of no resolutions taught me that it’s fine to stand in one place for a little while. It’s even OK to go back to your hometown after 17 years, feeling like a complete failure, and figure out how to re-invent your life.
But you have to know where you are first.
I maintained. I did what needed to be done to earn money to feed my son. I didn’t do a bang-up job at anything, but I learned about myself, what was important to me, and my limits.
No, I didn’t accomplish anything, or impress anyone with my grand plans and ideas. But I got grounded, established a solid support system, and did it while making sure my son was properly clothed and fed.
At some point, you need to own your shit.
For quite some time, I tried to hide some of who I am. In the name of not being embarrassed or avoiding conflict, I tried to present one face to certain others:
- I’d hem and haw about when I’d eventually get back to church.
- I’d hedge about when I’d start looking to get married again.
- I’d avoid questions about some of my crazier adventures.
For some reason, when I decided on a year of no resolutions, I also decided to start owning my shit.
No more excuses.
No more hedging.
And I started telling it like it is. Well, in a mostly-socially-appropriate manner. (Sometimes, when I’ve just a little extra, it means I over-share.)
Once I decided to explore who I am and what I wanted, I started realizing that I didn’t have to live for other people
Yes, I try to do nice things for people. No, I don’t go out of my way to be confrontational and make other uncomfortable. But I also don’t hide, either.
When I decided to stop making resolutions and trying to do things that aren’t really me, I let myself out a little bit.
There are some things I learned this year that I want to leave behind. And some of the things I learned about myself do need to be changed.
But it will be on my own terms.
You don’t need New Year’s resolutions to improve.
Just because I had a year of no resolutions doesn’t mean I didn’t make plans for self-improvement.
You can set goals and make efforts to improve any time of the year. You don’t need a specific holiday tradition to force it.
Once you figure out the meaning of your life, you can make changes anytime. And I love that. My year of no resolutions sort of freed me up to pursue different projects and find new ways to improve myself.
I started making changes to be healthier (well, once I stopped being a hot mess). I began brushing up on my German using a language app.
One of my friends pointed out that I seemed to be shifting from resolutions to themes for the year, and I kind of liked that idea. Last year, he pointed out, the theme was “explore.”
For the coming year, I’ve decided that, instead of renewing the resolution tradition, I’ll choose a theme. I think I’d like it to be “growth.”
There are many different ways to improve, and they don’t all follow a goal-setting formula.
I’ve had a kickass year. I’ve been able to travel, do amazing things with my son, and form new connections with really great people.
Hopefully, I’m ready for a new year. No resolutions. Just the idea that growth is the way to go for a new year.
What are your plans for the coming year?