With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, it’s time to get real about resolutions: making them, breaking them, and making them last. A 2002 study by researchers at the University of Scranton found that 64 percent of the 160 New Year’s resolvers they surveyed stuck with their goals for six months. And according to an earlier study by the same researchers, only 19 percent of participants were able to sustain their lifestyle changes for two years.
But fear not, aspiring goal-crushers. Slaying your 2018 resolutions might be as simple as remixing the template you use to write them. The follow-up study found that the people who shepherded their goals from January to December (and beyond) had one trait in common: self-efficacy, or trust in themselves to get the job done. So if you don’t believe you can stick with a traditional resolution—you know, the kind you swear by before the ball drops and jump right into on January 1—then you may be better served going a route less traveled.
To help you kickstart your New Year with self-confidence (rather than self-flagellation), I scoped out the New Year’s rituals of various creative thinkers, including writers, meditation teachers, and business coaches. Prepare to feel inspired—and inspire change.
Keep on scrolling for 5 alternative takes on New Year’s resolutions.
1. Choose a one-word theme
If the prospect of super-specific goal-setting makes your palms sweat, try making 2018 a more thematic year. “I love New Year’s resolutions—and I’m not the only one. Some 44 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions,” says Gretchen Rubin, the best-selling author of The Happiness Project. But instead of enumerating a long list of goals, Rubin chooses just one word to focus on in the coming year. For 2016, she went with “upgrade” and closed out the year with a new podcast and the publication of her second book. Not too shabby.
2. Shed the old to make room for the new
Eat Pray Love author and self-discovery expert Elizabeth Gilbert starts each year by making a two-sided list. On one side, she writes all the things she’d like to leave behind her in the new year. On the other, she writes all the things she’d like to invite into her life in the next 12 months. Next, she burns the paper and deposits the ashes into the nearest body of water. (But if you’re land-locked, I’m pretty sure Gilbert would give you permission to spread the ashes wherever is the most meaningful for you.)
3. Meditate on your personal mandala
“It’s not easy to intentionally effect change in your life,” writes Lodro Rinzler, meditation teacher, author, and co-founder of MNDFL. “Yet through setting an intention and building a lifestyle around that motivation it can get easier.” In a piece for the Huffington Post, Rinzler describes the practice of meditating on a New Year’s mandala, or series of concentric circles you can use to create a goal-achieving game plan, rather than a resolution.
After a few minutes of mindfulness practice, he says to pose this question to yourself: “What is my motivation for change?” After five minutes of contemplation, your central intention should become clear. Then, you can place this at the center of mandala; the circles that radiate from it will become the steps you take to hone in on this goal. For example, if you put “empathy” at the center, the next layer might be how you show up for family and friends. “It is up to you as to what you would like your life to revolve around. Is it your career? A quality you want to cultivate? Meditation practice itself? For each of us, our core motivation for personal change will look different,” explains Rinzler.
4. Write a “Dear Future Me Letter”
Jess Lively, business coach and permanent world traveler, sits down every January to write a letter to her future self. “Since 2006 I have been drafting Future Letters to myself as a way of creating a vision of what I’d like my year to be filled with, written in past-tense as if I’ve already accomplished my intentions,” she explains. “I take time during the weeks leading up to my letter in December to decide what things I’d like to attempt in the following year and put it all on paper during my Future Letter writing ceremony (and by ‘ceremony’ I mean I’m at a coffee shop typing on my laptop with a warm drink).”
To follow Lively’s template, start with: “As I see myself walk into this coffee shop in 2019… I see a woman who has done x… learned y… accomplished z…” and so forth. Once you’ve written your little love letter to yourself, Lively suggests always keeping it near you for reference and inspiration.
5. Conduct monthly new moon rituals
In 2018, skip the all-encompassing, yearly goals and let the monthly tides be your goal-setting guide. Ruby Warrington, co-founder of Moon Club, says a new moon is “an invitation to go inward and be with our emotions [and] our inner voice to find what our truth is in this moment, so that we can plant the seeds for what we want to create and manifest and bring out at the new full moon.” So put away your phone, grab your go-to high vibe crystals, and create monthly new moon rituals to check in with your goals and intentions. The first full moon of 2018 is coming up January 1st.
Finding happiness in 2018 might not be about cutting out bad habits at all—but becoming more you than ever before. And here are 8 ways to upgrade your health in the new year.