This post was written by Leo Babauta, originally for Zen Habits. Republished here with permission.
It’s the start of a new year, and like me, you’re filled with optimism. A new year is like a blank slate, and you can fill it with whatever you want! Here are 6 ways to create an awesome new year.
6 Ways to Create an Awesome New Year
Unfortunately, most people make a bunch of resolutions and then let them fizzle out by the end of the first month or so. How can we overcome this, and keep our motivation throughout the year to make it as awesome as it can be?
I’m going to offer some ideas to consider. You don’t have to do all of these, but pick a couple and most importantly, put them into action!
- Monthly challenges with weekly focuses. The problem with a year-long resolution is almost no one can really stay focused for an entire year. But if you break it into monthly challenges, then it’s much more doable. For example, if you want to get into shape, do a January challenge to go for a walk every day, or run three days a week. Even better: break the month-long challenge into weekly focuses … so you just have to run for three days this week. Then another focus the next week, etc. Once the first month is over, take what you learned and use that to shape your next month’s challenge.
- Make someone else pay for your failure. This is a really powerful form of motivation. Set a challenge for yourself for a month, and if you fail, then a friend agrees to have something bad happen to her or him. For example, if you don’t run three times a week for the month of January, then your friend Amit gets an ice bucket dumped on him. Or your wife has to go three days without her phone. Obviously your friends have to agree to the consequence, but you can agree to be each other’s consequence, and pick a consequence you’d be unhappy about but willing to do. This is much more powerful than if the consequence of your failure happens to you, because you really don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s misfortune.
- Make someone else benefit from your success. This is just the reverse of the previous idea … if you succeed at your monthly challenge, then a friend gets to have something nice happen to him or her. This is really nice, because you will be motivated to make someone else happy.
- Start with mindfulness training. I’ve found mindfulness to be the foundational habit, because it gives you some key tools for forming all other habits. If you do mindfulness training for a month or more, you’ll have the skills you need to not fail at other habits you want to create for the rest of the year. For example, you’ll be able to see your urges and rationalizations, instead of being controlled by them. You’ll be able to mindfully put yourself in the space you want to focus on creating something, or for doing a workout.
- Find your accountability crew. It’s possible to stick to changes on your own, but having a group of friends doing it with you is incredibly effective. Find people who want to make changes too, and agree to hold each other accountable. Use an online spreadsheet to keep track of how you’re doing each day or week, and set consequences (see above) if you fail or succeed. Don’t let your crew fall off track!
- Make small changes. Instead of trying to change everything at once, and making drastic changes … try to make smaller ones that will gradually end up as big changes over the course of a year. So instead of trying to work out for an hour a day, try just a few minutes each day. This allows you to fit the new habit into your life easily, and as you gradually increase the changes one small step at a time, your mind won’t rebel against the change because it’s not too far outside your comfort zone. If you want to eat better, add one vegetable to your meal each week, instead of going on a drastic diet.
- Be curious. Instead of failing and then thinking, “I suck,” don’t think of your changes as “fail” or “succeed.” Instead, think of it as a learning process, and no matter how you do, you’re learning something. Each failure is just another data point, another way to find out what works. This is a flexible mindset of curiosity, of wanting to find out, rather than thinking you have all the answers. This allows you to deal with any obstacles or changes that come up, because you’re not fixed on one outcome, but instead are curious about how things work and what might be possible.