Making New Year’s resolutions that don’t make me miserable

New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me. And it turns out I’m not alone. According to a study described on the website Statistics Brain, after one week 25% of people have dropped their resolutions, and by the end of the year, fully 92% have dropped.

graph depicting percentage of resolutions which fail
Percentage of resolutions which fail

Actually, the study reported on the success rate of people in regard to their resolutions, which puts the success rate at the end of the year at a measly 8%. I prefer to turn the statistics around and look at the percentage of resolutions that failed, not people.

Every year I made myself miserable by setting overly ambitious goals and then failing. Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve learned a new approach to making resolutions.

My healthier, saner approach to resolutions

  1. Reflect on what I did right last year.
  2. Reflect on what I would like my life to look like in the coming year.
  3. Make just a few resolutions.
  4. Make suggestions not commandments.
  5. Let go of the guilt.
  6. Give myself permission to change course.

Reflecting on what I did right

I find it helpful to take some time to jot a few notes about what I felt good about in the preceding year. What could I be proud of at work? At home? About my mind? My body? My spirit? Last year I finished up the required coursework for my thesis and started working out at a gym. Nothing earth-shattering, but good, steady progress. Being generous here makes the next step easier.

Reflecting on what I would like to be different

At this point I don’t set specific goals. Instead, I just think about what I would like my overall life to look like in the coming year. Would I like to have more toned muscles? Yes. Would I like to broaden my musical tastes? Maybe. Would I like to set aside more time for R & R on the weekends? Definitely. The idea here is to get a general impression of how I want things to be, and to keep it simple.

Making just a few resolutions

More is not always better, especially when it comes to setting goals. Setting too many goals divides my focus and my energy. I’m much better off making just a few resolutions. Again, simplify.

list of ten New Year's resolutions
Making too many resolutions divided my focus and energy

Making suggestions, not commandments

The very best kind of friend to have is one who offers suggestions which are prompted by concern and respect. Such a friend does not boss you around and give you commandments. Instead, a really good friend wants you to live well, take good care of yourself, and be happy. To create helpful resolutions for my life, I asked myself what a good friend would suggest for me.

a list of 3 simple resolutions
The kind of resolutions a good friend might suggest

Letting go of guilt

In my world, which is filled with competing demands on my time and energy, rigid rules don’t work. I need wiggle room. And I don’t need guilt. So I work on letting that go. After all, if I’m not keeping a resolution, maybe the fault is not in me, but in the resolution. Which leads me to my final step.


Giving myself permission to change course

If I’m not sticking to a resolution, I ask myself why. Is it unrealistic? Is it not likely to improve my life? Does it bore me? Depending on the answers to these questions, I might need to tweak a resolution, or replace it with a new one, or drop it altogether. And that’s okay. The point is to improve my life, not follow rules blindly.

If you’d like to read more about making attainable New Year’s resolutions, read Logan Chierotti’s 5 Hacks to Help You Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? How are they working?



I forgot my cell phone yesterday – or did I?

Yesterday I discovered that being without a cell phone all day can be a relief.

I didn’t intend to find this out. I fully intended to take my purse and cell phone when I left the house. And then I forgot.  Continue reading “I forgot my cell phone yesterday – or did I?”

Confessions of an HSP: Decluttering

I really enjoyed this post from a fellow blogger on decluttering.

Confessions of an HSP: Decluttering.

She illuminates the connection between our environment and our moods, productivity, and well-being. I hope you find this as insightful and inspiring as I did. Yesterday I worked on decluttering the garage. In just one hour I managed to go through two whole boxes of stuff. Some of it I donated to Goodwill. Some of it I put away in the house. And some of it I just threw out. More of it than I care to admit, really!

I’ve come to realize that instead of being a once-in-a-blue-moon event, this taking stock and letting go of stuff is a cycle. As autumn gets rolling I feel an urge to go sort through my closet. To every thing there is a season…


Why is there so much stuff?!

I moved recently from an apartment to a townhouse and the process overwhelmed me. How had I managed to fit all this stuff into a one-bedroom apartment? Some of it held sentimental value, of course, but much of it was just taking up space. A look at my bookshelves provided insight into the larger problem. The shelves were crowded with volumes I rarely looked at:

  • collections of crochet patterns, which I now prefer to browse for online;
  • Shakespeare’s plays (from the days when I could afford a subscription to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater);
  • gardening books (not useful for apartment dwellers);
  • user manuals for software and devices I no longer owned;
  • textbooks from my (long ago) days as an undergrad;
  • books I felt I should read but probably never would.

I walked past these shelves every day but I wasn’t actually seeing what was on them. I had accumulated much of this clutter by default, simply by not paying attention to what I had and what I really needed. Broadening my gaze to the rest of the apartment, I found the same problem everywhere: too much stuff. I was reminded of comedian George Carlin’s classic routine about stuff:

I felt better after watching George’s routine, but I still needed a plan, a system, to make sense of the chaos. I didn’t have a system of my own, so I decided to borrow someone else’s. I went to the Flylady blog, written by Marla Cilley. Flylady is a guru for those of us who need help with organizing and cleaning, cheerfully reminding us to take baby steps and learn to do a little bit every day. Her page on moving offered some liberating advice: If you don’t love it, don’t move it.

To get rid of clutter, or “decluttering” as she calls it, Flylady recommends getting 3 boxes or bins (laundry baskets work well for this) and using them to sort things into 3 piles:

  1. Put away
  2. Give away
  3. Throw away

I started with the books. At first, her system seemed harsh. How could I let go of things I had owned for decades? But gradually, as space opened up on the bookshelves, I started to feel better. I hadn’t realized how much all this stuff weighed me down. Letting go made me feel lighter. Freer. Relieved. I continued moving through the apartment, letting go of things I no longer needed or wanted. I regularly donated boxes of clothes, books, and household goods to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I liked to think about the people I might be helping this way. I reminded myself how lucky I was to be in a position to help others. Interesting the way that giving often leads to gratitude.

I’d like to claim that I thoroughly simplified my life in that one move, but I didn’t. I held on to many things out of fear that I might need them in some far-off future. When I started unpacking at the new place I was dismayed by how much I had schlepped with me. So I got out 3 boxes, sorted things into piles and made daily trips to Goodwill. I’ve learned that living this way is a process, and a never-ending one. New stuff will always find its way into my home, so I need to make uncluttering a regular habit. When I buy a new book, which I am bound to do, I need to get rid of an old one.

I’ve found several rewards for my efforts. Dusting has gotten easier. I have more room to display the items I really treasure, like the brass samovar from my uncle’s travels. I don’t dread going into my closet to search for something to wear. And I have a place now that feels not just tidier, but more spacious, more serene, more welcoming. More like home.