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This Year, Just Say No to Resolutions (and Get Better)

By Sara Butler


Each year around this time, you’re bombarded with ideas for New Year’s resolutions. You know, a pact you make with yourself to do something specific in the coming year -- or not do something, depending on who you are.

The problem is that people don’t tend to stick to their resolutions and fail to make the changes they want as a reality. The goals you set for the New Year are difficult for a variety of reasons, chief among them that most resolutions are incredibly general and unattainable -- not because they’re difficult, but because they aren’t clearly defined.

So, instead of creating new goals for yourself this year, why don’t you shake things up a bit and make some anti-resolutions? Anti-resolutions are commitments you make to stop doing something instead of commitments you make to start doing something. And unlike a New Year’s resolution, anti-resolutions can begin any time of year.

Sounds interesting? Here are some tips you can use to get your anti-resolution list started and kick off the new year a little bit differently.

The Case for Anti-Resolutions

At this point, you may be thinking that anti-resolutions seem a little bit crazy, but the practice is grounded in sound logic. Each year when you make resolutions, you think about what you should start doing (“I resolve to do this”), but the better question to ask yourself -- and will have a far more meaningful impact on your life -- is what you should stop doing.

To get what you want, identifying anti-resolutions are a much better way forward. After all, it’s easier to create a list of things you shouldn’t do or don’t want to do than creating the opposite list that never quite seems to pan out. If you know what you don’t want to do, it allows you to be a lot more intentional and discover how you’ve been making life a bit harder for yourself and then take steps to do something about it!

How to Make Anti-Resolutions

So, what kinds of things should go on an anti-resolution list? They’re structured a lot like the resolutions list you’re probably already familiar with but just a little bit different. For example, if eating healthier would be an item on your normal resolutions list, then your anti-resolution should be just a little more specific such as you will not eat fast food. Or, perhaps instead of saying you’re going to keep your house clean, you say you’re not going to leave dishes in the sink all night. Anti-resolutions are about precise, tangible behaviors that you can target, which makes them a lot easier to stick to -- and remove from your routine. OK, who’s ready to quit soft drinks?

You can put together your anti-resolution list by identifying a few key things:

  • What have you missed or avoided this year?
  • Where in your life could you have been more decisive?

Some examples of good anti-resolutions you may want to make include:

  • Stop using technology mindlessly - You can connect with anyone over the internet at any hour of the day, but a lot of technology is made to be distracting and addictive. Choose not to use it mindlessly and make sure you’re thinking about something when you use it. Say you won’t have your phone out at dinner with the family or that you won’t check your work email when you’re at your kid’s school play.
  • Stop holding your tongue - If you often let people walk all over you with their opinions, then make this the year that you find the courage to stop it. Speak up and make sure your voice is heard. Commit to not allowing yourself to stay quiet when you’re in meetings or holding back your opinion about something to be known at family dinner.
  • Stop procrastinating - A lot of people put off stuff they need to do, but putting off the stuff you dread will only guarantee it sucks the life right out of you. Instead, accept that there are certain things you need to do and just do them. Say that this year you will not put off returning calls or that you will not wait until the day before something is due to actually work on it.
  • Stop with the negativity bias - Humans are sort of programmed to dwell on stuff that didn’t work out in the past. Imagining the worst-case scenario in every situation doesn’t really serve to help you live in the present, it only makes you more anxious. Don’t borrow trouble and rehearse unhappiness; instead, change the habit. Say that you will not assume the worst in a certain situation anymore.

Crafting an anti-resolutions list is about taking stock of what you won’t do. It helps you to be more specific about the little things that add up to behaviors that don’t serve you well in your day-to-day life.

Perhaps the ultimate anti-resolution is that you don’t have to do it all today, right now, before the new year starts. The great thing about anti-resolutions is that they can happen at any time. Give yourself an opportunity to think about what you want to change and commit to your anti-resolutions list when it feels right to you.

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