During my many years, I have made more than my fair share of New Year’s resolutions, most of them involving major changes that I wanted to make in my life. And, like most of the world, not long afterwards, my good intentions fell by the wayside. “According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80 percent, and most lose their resolve by mid-February.” (Source)
Psychologists don’t agree on why our resolutions tend to fail. It could be that we have unrealistic expectations or that our goals are unclear or that we word them negatively instead of in a positive light. Regardless of the reason, most of our very good intentions will end in wasted efforts and a big dose of guilt on our part for having failed again.
How to Really Encourage Change
If making resolutions don’t work, then what can we do to become better people? Melinda Gates recommends choosing a word of the year to fully embrace instead of making a resolution. This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus, just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.
For example, instead of making a resolution to lose weight or to quit smoking or to exercise more (some of the most common resolutions made each year), instead embrace one word that helps you focus on the next steps in your growth. You might select “consistent” to help you focus on eating well on a regular basis or “enough” to remind you that you don’t need too much. Some people who have tried this approach have selected the word “fearless” or “centered” or “peace” or “present.” There is no right or wrong word, only the word that will help you become a better you.
How to Select Your One Word
Step 1: Think about the kind of person you want to be one year from now. Be realistic and be kind to yourself.
Step 2: Identify the characteristics that the person you want to become would have. Is that person generous? Confident? Healthy? Unafraid? Happy? Write them all down.
Step 3: Once you have a list of words that describe the potential you, simply pick one of them to focus on this year. Don’t let yourself pick more than one; you need to commit to just one word.
Step 4: Embrace your word. Create reminders to yourself about it, perhaps by making a piece of art that will remind you of its meaning or by putting up sticky notes with the word on it around your work and home. Remind yourself positively about your one word on a regular basis, either as a mantra or a prayer or a statement or a song, whatever works for you.
Step 5: Share your word if you are comfortable doing so. A partner or friend can help support in your journey. Or, if you want a bigger support group, Tweet your word to #oneword.
After going through all of these steps and spending some time thinking about my goals, I have chosen “balance” as my word. I struggle with having a very strong Type A personality, which means I tend to go overboard in lots of different areas in my life, from eating to working to feeling. This year, I will embrace the concept of balance to help me remember to keep the parts of my life in equal proportions to each other and to what I need. I believe that if I can remain focused on being balanced, I will be a healthier, happier, and gentler person by this time next December.
Let go of the resolution, must-do, don’t fail mentality. “It’s far more effective to gently focus on a word like ‘health’ than to command yourself to get to the gym. As you inspire yourself toward good health, it’s likely that you will find a way to achieve it. Make sure that your word feels good to you, not pushy and demanding.” (Source)
What will be your one word for the year? And how even more amazing will you be by the end of this next year after focusing on just that concept?