Turn your New Year’s resolution into a revolution

Make your goals for 2019 last beyond February with these 3 tweaks
By Suzan Colón  Published on 01/03/2019 at 10:26 AM EDT
Illustration by Suzan Colón

Do you remember the New Year’s resolutions you made last year? If not, that could be because they crashed and burned by February. We mean it when we make those resolutions, with all our hearts, even as we set ourselves up for total failure.

How? A few understandable mistakes:

We set the bar way too high. We’re programmed to think big or go home, but making grand goals raises the chances for getting discouraged when those goals can’t be met immediately, or the challenge is painful (think: new fitness regime injuries).

The change is drastic. Say you want to go vegan in the new year. Going cold tofurkey off animal products could be too sudden and radical a change to sustain.

We do it alone. Personal goals are great, but they’re also easy to drop when the work gets hard.

It’s easy to see how resolutions with the best intentions can end up being tossed out with the New Year’s Eve confetti.

So how can we keep our promises to ourselves and make them last? With just three simple tweaks from spiritual teachings, we can start feeling better about what we’re doing even before midnight on December 31. These small adjustments in the way you approach your resolutions could even start a quiet revolution that makes the kind of changes you really want—and actually like doing. (Whoa.)

Resolution Revolution 1: Start small and work your way up. Think about your favorite grand structure—the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Coliseum, your local library. How were they built? One piece at a time. It’s the same with New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of setting out to run a marathon of 26 miles when you can’t run around the block yet, set a goal of running a 5k. Celebrate that goal, then up your game to a 10k, then a half marathon, and so on. If you start with manageable goals you’ll meet them, and then you can set more and meet those too. Resolution result: You get to have multiple celebrations in 2019, rather than one.

Resolution Revolution 2: Make it positive. In Yoga, there’s a spiritual practice called Pratipaksha Bhavana where, if you’re having negative thoughts, you consciously swap them out for positive thoughts. New Year’s Resolutions are sometimes unintentionally negative, as when people say, “I want to lose 25 lbs.!” The subtext is that you’re unhappy with your weight and that it’s somehow wrong. A more positive version: “I want to get fit and healthy!” That allows you to lose whatever amount of weight is right for your beautiful body, in a way that makes you feel good, rather than by starving yourself. See the difference? Never mind, you’ll feel the difference.

Resolution Revolution 3: Rope in a friend. One of my early New Year’s Resolutions (I call it a Sankalpa—setting an intention) was cutting out refined sugar for 90 days, possibly longer. I wouldn’t have lasted for a week if not for making a pact with a sugar-free buddy. We text each other every day (“Good morning Day 12!”) and share our progress, how we’re feeling, and solutions (“Applesauce is EVERYTHING”). If you want to make a change, buddy up with a friend who wants to do something similar.

Another thing people do right before making a resolution is binge on things they’re giving up. This doesn’t set them up for failure in the new year so much as it can make their holidays suck right now. This is particularly true for people who are thinking of giving up drinking in the new year. Really, really do not try the “going out with a bang” approach by binge drinking over the holidays, unless you want to ring in 2019 in the ER.

Oh, and one more thing about the resolutions you’re making: Can some of them please be fun? As I mentioned, I resolved to stop eating refined sugar. While this is a healthy goal, it’s not the most fun I’ve ever had. (I’ll let you know what happened when the fast is over.) So I’m making sure to have some more joy-inducing resolutions, like making time to draw more often.

Share your New Year’s resolutions here, divine lights of Grok Nation, and I’ll stop by over the holidays to add some special spiritual guidance to make your resolutions rock. 

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