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A few years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to make New Year’s resolutions anymore. It wasn’t that I thought no one should make them, but more so that I had realized they weren’t particularly helpful for me. Even if I mostly kept a resolution, I still felt crummy about what I didn’t accomplish, and most of the time I forgot what my resolutions were by the time March rolled around.
Instead of making resolutions, I decided to focus on choosing a word for the year. Most of the time, that word was very helpful for me, although one year I completely forgot what word I had chosen and had to look it up again. I found that having a single word to focus on enabled me to adapt as I needed when things came up throughout the year – as things always do. Choosing one word was almost like identifying a mission statement, but it was ambiguous enough to be flexible in a way that resolutions never seemed to be.
My first word was love. I selected this word by following a three-step process: 1) look inside yourself and ask what you need, 2) look up and ask God for a word, and 3) look out and see how this one word will change how you live. My second word was present. Last year, I selected the word live.
In the past, the one word for my year seemed to reach out and choose me. I didn’t have to discern for very long. The word I needed was clear, and I embraced it. This year, the New Year is already under way and I have no idea what my word will be. So, for a moment I started entertaining making a resolution again. I didn’t really want to, but I also didn’t want to start the year without any goals or vision. (How very Enneagram 4 of me, honestly.)
As I wondered what resolution I might make, I remembered something that someone once said to me: “The secret to being happy is not having too many expectations.”
Resolutions are just dressed up expectations, and expectations are in the misery-making game. All too often, resolutions are a once-a-year, socially-acceptable way of telling ourselves how lousy we think we are, and setting far-fetched goals we know deep down we can never reach.
Sounds miserable, huh?
And many times it is miserable, which is why 90% of resolutions go unmet, with most people quitting before the month of January is over.
Having too many or unrealistic expectations sets us up to be chronically disappointed and dissatisfied.
Not only do resolutions set us up for disappointment, resolutions also fail to acknowledge all our past progress and the journey our lives have taken. They start out from a deficit – what I’m not doing well enough (or at all) – and seek to undo some perceived wrong or lack. Our lives are so much more complex than this. Certainly, the entirety of our previous year (or years) wasn’t a loss. We’ve grown, we’ve learned, we’ve changed. Perhaps we need nudges to get back on track, but we also need to celebrate where we’ve been and any progress we’ve made.
I may not have a word yet for this year, and I may not be making resolutions, but there are a few things I am hoping to do:

  1. Learn about foods that used to be commonly made and aren’t as common anymore. I’ve already made a blueberry grunt (slow cooker recipe, or a traditional recipe) this year. Here’s to more culinary adventures! (Suggestions welcome.)
  2. Do something about all my half-finished crochet projects. Seriously, who needs this many unfinished projects? I finished two of them already this year! Only a million more to go.
  3. Say “no” more often. This is a huge one for me. No is a complete sentence, and it’s okay to use it sometimes. No explanation necessary.
  4. Grow something I’ve never grown before. This is one of my favorite parts about gardening: growing things you can’t readily find in the grocery store. I’m not sure what new plant I’ll grow this year, but I’m leaning towards either Job’s Tears or German Blackberries/Schwartzenbeeren.
  5. Drink more water. If I can remember to water my plants, I can remember to water myself. 🙂

Who knows what things might look like when a whole year has passed us all by again? But for now, I’m excited to see what new things these goals might inspire. Perhaps there will be interesting foods to eat, lots of stitches to be made, exotic plants to grow, and a few things that might help me tend to myself a bit better, too.
Do you make resolutions? If so, what have you decided to resolve for this year? Are you a “one word” person? What word have you chosen?
I’d love to hear what’s on your mind as we enter into a brand new year.