January 1 has just arrived, and that means many of our brains are thinking about what we can do to better ourselves in 2021. This is a good thing. However, the way you go about it could be self-sabotaging. In a talk with Business Insider, Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School, says that we often frame our New Year’s resolutions in a negative way that dooms them from the start. Here’s an excerpt:
People “tend to focus on things they want to change about themselves and things they dislike about themselves,” Cuddy says.
When you do this, “you’re eliciting in yourself negative emotions. Some negative emotions are motivating, but for the most part, they’re not.” If you say, “I’m going to stop eating junk food,” to use an example, you’re denigrating yourself before even getting started. You’re better off framing your goal as “eating healthier” so that you’ll remain motivated and optimistic.
So, in light of this little discovery, here are 10 New Year’s resolutions you want to stop setting, like right now.
10. Lose Weight
This is probably the biggie. We’re all a little overstuffed after the holidays anyway, right? But instead of just saying you want to lose weight, why not frame it in a positive way and set a goal to love healthy foods or to cultivate a passion for exercise? Take the focus off of the weight and put it firmly on your quality of life. Oh, and try to make it fun.
9. Pay off debt
Paying off your debt is a good thing, for sure, but it doesn’t really hit the systemic reason you got into debt in the first place. Instead of focusing on paying off your Visa card, why not set the goal to master your personal finances in 2021? This resolution makes a much bigger impact and could change the course of your finances for the rest of your life — so you don’t have to set a debt-canceling resolution ever again.
8. Be a Better Person
OK, this one is pretty vague anyway, but it also frames the goal in a negative way — making you a not-so-great-person at the present. Why not pick something specific and positive to chase after that doesn’t hinge on your intrinsic value as a person. Join a non-profit. Give to a charity. Serve at a shelter and learn more about the plight of homelessness in your city. If you really want to be a better person, start by setting a goal that’s others-focused.
7. Run a Marathon
This one isn’t negative, but it is pretty lofty. Many people set this goal in January before they’ve even run a mile. Instead of a marathon, fall in love with running (a personal goal recently set by Amy Cuddy) and make it more about passion and enjoyment than a potentially shame-induced goal to reach the epicenter of runner’s fame.
6. Get Married
This, of course, is for you single people out there. The desire to find your soulmate is a positive thing but putting pressure on yourself to find “the one” is not such a healthy mantle to put on yourself. It’s a recipe for self-loathing in the new year and we all know it. Instead of setting a goal to get married, make your objective to love — and live — your life with more passion a la “Walter Mitty”? Focus on being a better friend and enriching the lives of others — and who knows, maybe something surprising will happen. But even if it doesn’t, you’ve spent your time wisely and the investment you make in others will always pay off.
5. Go on a 40 Day Spiritual Fast
Fasting is good and it’s a powerful way to connect with God, but setting a large fasting goal for the new year could set you up for spiritual disappointment (and guilt). Remember, you can’t make God love you more than he already does — no matter how hard you try. Why not start out by setting a smaller goal to learn more about fasting and the spiritual disciplines this year. Fast in small increments and engage in a variety of disciplines with the ultimate goal — to know Jesus better.
4. Stop Using Social Media
You might be sick of all the crazy stuff that goes down on social media, but the answer probably isn’t deleting all your accounts in 2021. Instead of becoming an anti-social-media elite, why not make the decision to use your voice on social media to encourage others and invest in relationships more deeply? You know, change the game by staying in it.
3. Make More Money
Not a bad goal, really, we’ve all got bills, but this is so general that it rarely sticks, and the end result is typically negative. So instead of chasing after the Benjamins — find creative ways to be happy without spending money. Give yourself a personal life audit. Make a goal to simplify your life and pare down your expenses to the things that really matter. Instead of chasing after a bigger salary (which, frankly, is a never-ending pursuit) chase after experiences and relationships. Change the pattern of your life and spend time reflecting on what really matters in life — loving God and others.
2. Learn a New Language
How many of us have said this? How many of us, in adulthood, have actually learned a new language? Show of hands? Exactly. Instead of setting the lofty goal of learning a whole new way to speak, why not set the goal to learn more about a specific culture or people group in 2021? Take the yoke of learning a new language off your shoulders and make your pursuit more about enriching your understanding and knowledge of a specific culture or people group.
1. Write a Book
So if you haven’t heard yet, everyone wants to write a book. Writing a book would be a fantastic accomplishment, no doubt, but setting the goal for writing one in a year is pretty much a recipe for disappointment. Oh, and if no one has told you yet, it’s pretty pretentious to claim this as a resolution at parties. Just don’t. Instead, why not set a goal to journal your life or memoir or to write [two-three] short stories and have them published? It’s a good stair-step goal that will help you develop as a writer and learn to love the craft. If you write consistently throughout 2021 it will be a success! It’s all about the journey, right?