My Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

Fact: 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. We go through holiday remorse, the guilt-ridden response people have after all the Christmas parties and December indulgences, and this jump-starts grandiose plans for change.

Remember the permutations of this meme?

I stopped joining the New’s Year’s resolutions hullabaloo ages ago. I, too, used to be one of those people who would proclaim, “New year, new me!” and “I swear, this is gonna be my year!” on January 1st, followed by the urge to hit the gym on the first week of the year, thinking it would give me instant abs. By February, gym memberships dwindle and people slowly go back to their old habits.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for Cosmopolitan about five more realistic alternatives to New Year’s resolutions. The one that tops my list is Word of the Year.

I first learned about the concept of “your word” from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat Pray Love. She explained how a specific country or town’s collective mindset or vibe may be defined by just one word, or how a person’s entire year can be summarized by one keyword.

It reminded me of ikigai, a Japanese term that means “reason to get up in the morning or reason to enjoy life.” According to the Japanese culture, everyone has an ikigai, and it’s up to you to deeply search life for it. Do you know what your ikigai is?

I learned more about these concepts from BDJ CEO, Darlyn Ty, who shared that every January 1st, she chooses her Word of the Year, a word that sums up her mindset and goals for the next 12 months. Original credit goes to performer-turned-entrepreneur Christine Kane, who first wrote about Word of the Year in her blog back in 2006.

She revolted against New Year’s resolutions and decided to simplify, focus, and be gentler about the approach. “Pick a word of the year,” she told her readers. “Just one word. That’s all. Then, hold that word in your mind throughout the year, and let your word guide you to take action.”

A classic example is wanting to lose weight. Instead of proclaiming, “I will lose 20 lbs. and get abs,” choose a word that will help you attain long-term healthy habits, among other personal goals. For example, how about the word courage? Write it in bold letters in your journal, planner, or mood board. Say it aloud. You may even purchase a personalized bracelet that spells out your mantra. Incorporate the word into your daily mindset. For every decision you make for the next 12 months, from training for your first marathon to quitting that dead-end job, have your word “courage” in mind.

Your word can be in any form—a noun, verb, or adjective. Choose only one word. It’s not as easy as it sounds. In my first year, I jotted down dozens of words and spent weeks racking my brain before finally choosing one final word. If you need help deciding, download Kane’s free Word-of-the-Year discovery tool.

Some of my previous words were: survive (2013), thrive (2016), evolve (2017), and focus (2019).

My 2019 word

What’s your word of the year? Don’t think about what other people may say. Your word may seem mundane to onlookers, but what matters is that it resonates with your struggles, joys, achievements, and goals. Your process of finding your word is deeply personal and you don’t need to justify it to anyone else other than yourself.

Share your word in the comments section below if you’d like. But more importantly, embrace it. Claim it.

Photos courtesy of Pixabay
First published: December 31, 2018
Updated: December 30, 2022