Welcome to 2017, Pen Friends!
Once the confetti has been swept up, and we’ve all recovered from staying up too late, it seems like the dawning of January only has one thing to declare: New Year’s Resolutions!
But let me be honest: I’ve never really cared for New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe it’s my Myers-Briggs type talking (I’m an INFP), but I can’t stand being made to create a long list of things I need to improve in my life, and then be made to feel guilty about it if I don’t follow through on them all. I realize that’s not the actual point of resolutions, but that’s how they’ve always felt to me–like that one-size-too-small, itchy sweater your mom’s second cousin gave you for Christmas: uncomfortable, yet you still feel obligated to wear it. No, thank you. (Sorry, Cousin Cate!)*
My point is this: there’s nothing wrong with the idea behind starting fresh and setting some goals when the calendar page flips over to a new year, and everything is shiny and exciting. I think we’re setting ourselves up for failure with the traditional guilt-inducing system of resolutions, though. And who wants to start a new year by expecting to crash and burn? That’s a hard pass from me.
In light of that, friends, I’d like to present an alternative or three, because I do believe in the power of new beginnings, and finding ways to both improve and continuously be moving toward our goals and dreams. Let’s make the new year sparkle!
3 Ideas for Approaching the New Year Without Stress
1. Focus on a word or phrase rather than a daunting list of resolutions.
This has been a practice of mine for a number of years now, and I know of a lot of people who love this, too. Take some quiet time by yourself and consider what your year ahead looks like. Is there a theme emerging? Maybe it’s something like focus or joy, or it could be something you never even thought about. There’s a good chance that the word that starts poking at you is one that scares you, either because it doesn’t make a lot of sense, or perhaps because you know exactly why it makes sense. Last year, my word was Relentless. And it scared me a lot! But remembering that word as I went throughout my year helped me, too, and it taught me a lot about myself. If you do find a word, tell us what it is!
2. Choose small, actionable things to work on–and give yourself grace.
The easier a thing is to do, the more likely you are to actually do it. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t do hard things in our lives (because trust me, we will have to), but if we’re talking about goals, I think it’s more important that we can achieve them. You’ll be less likely to abandon them half-finished if they’re things you can actually get done.
If you want to write more this year, instead of saying, “I’m going to write 2,000 words EVERY DAY!,” say something like, “I want to write more consistently, with a goal of 5,000 words per week (or month).” That way, you’re still making significant forward progress, but you won’t have the panic every day when you make it to 10 pm without having hit your word count. You will have other days in the week or month to make up for the deficit. If you have a deadline from a publisher, of course that won’t work the same way, but the important thing is finding what works for you.
And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit all of your goals all the time. Look at what you managed to do, and readjust as you move forward. Set yourself up for success!
3. Set goals that aren’t based on other people’s participation.
I’ve seen a number of writing industry folks chatting on Twitter about how important this is. Sure, you might hope to snag an agent or a publishing contract this year, but don’t make that your goal. That depends too much on the agents and editors to make it happen. Instead, make your goal something like, “I’m going to send out ten query letters a month, and finish a new manuscript.” Both of those things are completely in your hands.
Outside of writing, this applies to regular life as well. For example, if you’re a runner, it’s not a very fruitful goal to say that you’re going to win every race you enter this year. Of course, that would be awesome, but there are a lot of great runners out there. Unless you’re Usain Bolt or Allyson Felix, there are just too many other factors to consider–and those factors are called Other Runners. What you can do is make a goal of running a specific amount of miles, or entering a certain number of races.
Now that you have some ideas, tell us: what do you like (or not like) about New Year’s Resolutions? Do you prefer choosing a word of the year or making a list of smaller, actionable goals?
What are your big plans and ideas for 2017? Let’s get to work on making this a great year!
*I don’t actually have a Cousin Cate, nor did she give me an awful sweater. That was just for illustration purposes. Carry on.
Dana, signing off to go figure out her word for the year!