A New Year’s Theme. An Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

New years fireworks

Photo from Wikimedia 

How many of you actually carry out your New Year’s resolutions? Honestly. In full.

I’m no paragon of virtue here myself.

I believe that after too many failed attempts at New Year’s resolutions, most people start to attach strong unconscious negative feelings towards New Year’s resolutions, but continue to create a new one or a batch of them each year in part out of guilt, or perceived social pressure.

If you are one of the few that do carry out your New Year’s resolutions in full, good on ya, and keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re one of those that do not, you might consider my proposed alternative.

A New Year’s Theme.

I came up with this idea while coaching a client around what goals he wanted to accomplish in 2006.

I had an intuition that a theme for the year might be more useful for him than several specific goals and I asked him what he thought about having a specific theme for the year (based on his situation and desires) and he was quite responsive to that, adjusting the wording a bit. It worked well on another client and I decided to try it myself. My chosen New Year’s theme is deliberate creation, (as opposed to impulsive action).

A theme is much bigger than a specific goal i.e. lose weight, stop smoking. It can include many related goals under its umbrella. For example, live healthier, become a kinder person, judge others less, market more effectively, live a more balanced life, develop a deeper spiritual practice, etc.

It allows you to look at the whole year from a specific perspective. When you decide what you’ll do for the week, you examine those decisions in part through the lens of your theme. What can you do this week that will bring your closer in line with your theme?

It’s not an absolute; I still will do impulsive things. However, I will move toward more deliberate creation in my life. It’s an orientation, a holistic point of view, something that can encompass many areas of your life.

10 Tips on creating and implementing your New Year’s Theme

1. You cannot officially commit to the theme until after January 1st or it doesn’t count. This is a way of removing the guilt and built up negative emotional and psychological baggage of previously unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions, allowing you to make a decision from a clearer, more realistic position.

2. The theme should ideally consist of a single concept, or at most 2 related or complementary concepts. A single ADDer can come up with a bigger to-do list than 4 other people combined. A smaller number = a greater clarity and focus. Also an increased chance of sustained action. Will your really remember 10 different themes in your 4th month of the year?

3. The fewer words the better. Two is ideal and easier to remember than 15, and easier to use as a mantra.

4. It is process oriented. You are moving towards something. You can set specific goals during the year under the overall framework of your theme, but you don’t attach a numeric target to your theme. This reduces your disappointment, and later de-motivation if you don’t do well on your theme for a particular week. There’s always next week. However, this doesn’t mean you start slacking and take a month off.

5. It’s something big enough to really stir your soul. No small dreams here. Dream big. You need something big enough to motivate you into continual action. For most people, losing 10 pounds or cleaning out the garage doesn’t cut it.

6. Work on the wording until each word really resonates with you. You choose your theme; don’t let someone else tell you what it should be.

7. Regularly examine your life from the viewpoint of moving towards your yearly theme. You need to set related goals on a regular weekly and monthly basis that move you closer to your theme, and reward yourself when you reach those goals. I suggest scheduling in the reward first.

8. Don’t plan too far in advance. Be willing to readjust and realign your goals as life circumstances change. It’s a process, not a fixed in stone timeline you set once and slavishly follow.

9. Use your theme as a decision-making tool. When you make an important decision (when appropriate and related), add your New Year’s theme as one of the factors in the decision. Does this decision move me closer to my yearly theme?

10. Use your ADD creativity in creating meaningful limited goals towards your theme. If you feel like it set a new goal every week or couple of weeks. Mix it up for increased dopamine stimulation. Be creative about choosing your goal and limit it to increase the odds of completion. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

If you have one, work with your Adult ADHD coach on developing your theme, and choosing and implementing your theme related goals as well as weekly regular strategic realignments.

I could write why most New Year’s resolutions fail but that’s another story. Ideally setting and regularly working towards personal meaningful goals year round is the best way to go. A yearly theme can turbo charge that process, it’s not for everyone, but it may be right for you.

If you decide to choose a theme for the New Year, let me know which one you choose by adding a comment below, it may inspire others.

8 thoughts on “A New Year’s Theme. An Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. Gerard Montigny

    Hello and Happy New Year to you Peter

    This is an excellent post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I think you are onto something with this in terms of a perceptual reframe. I suspect that the tools provided in this post will be beneficial in several ways. One being a reframe situation helping people let to go of old hang-ups around failed resolutions, this is great. Another one being the broad umbrella of themes as opposed to specific/independent outcomes (goals) set on the first day of the year.

    I like this because (that is if I understand it) it will easily allow individuals to tap in to the idea of life as creative metaphor (just how I would personally frame themes in my own life). Definitely an approach that is a good mix of the “not too tight and not too lose” in that there is enough structure to set broader goals while maintaining enough flexibility for the creative and nonlinear predispositions experienced by many of those diagnosed with ADHD.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Thanks Gerard,

    reframing is quite powerful if people are open to it. You’ve got it right, ADDers do need some type of structure or we can wander all over the map, but if it’s too tight or has no room for sponteneity, we rebel or give up.


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