Have you ever heard of Epictetus's philosophy to lift by the other handle if the one you're lifting doesn't work?
Did your New Year's resolutions work this year? Or last year? Or in the last ten years?
Most of our resolutions fail. That's why I came up with something else. I now like to set shorter-term goals, preferably throughout the year. No more January 2nd guilt and failed plans. Can I not expect myself to do X, Y and Z throughout all of 2023? Then how about I do X in January, Y in February, evaluate and give myself a chance to take a break or continue on with one of these, and then do Z in April or May? Once I get to that point, I may have new goals to set, or I may want to designate another month or several to do X or Z.
This is how I planned out last year, 2022:
Monthly goals allowing for imperfections and a later look
In January, I would practice the trumpet for half an hour five days a week. February was a month to focus on a few tasks for my health: I would make myself go to the doctor, and I would make myself complete a cancer screening. In March, I would take a break, or play the trumpet some more if I wanted another month of it, or make those doctor's visits happen in case they hadn't yet. In April or May, I would then have another trumpet-month unless I found by then that there was something more important for me to spend my time on.
Small, weekly goal with a finite ending
Along with these monthly goals, I had a nonfiction book I wanted to get through, and I decided to read in it for half an hour every Thursday. Some weeks, I managed to read it earlier in the week. On occasion, I didn't get to it until Friday. But it worked. I completed the book before the end of the year, got back an extra half hour in my schedule, and learned some cool things.
Major motivating objective that consumed me . . . in a good way
Overarching all of this was my plan to ready one of my books for publication while learning the self-publishing business. This involved a lot of flexible steps, goals, and plans that were modified along the way. Note that publishing my book was something I was fully motivated to do. It wasn't something I was likely to flake on partway through the year. Any truly meaningful objective such as improving your relationship with a family member could go in your "major motivating objective" bucket.
Did I complete everything I wanted to in 2022? Well . . . the cancer screening didn't end up happening until later in the year, when I went to the doctor with COVID and decided on the spot to get the screening done, as well. (Not a fun visit! Not even! ) But January trumpet practice went great. The first doctor's visit happened as planned. In May, I played the trumpet some before deciding it was more important I spend whatever time I had working on my books.
So, did I complete everything I wanted to in 2022? Yes! I felt accomplished and successful. It wasn't perfect, but is it really supposed to be? I progressed, got things done, and gained new knowledge. I never once groaned or pity-laughed over failed resolutions. I evaluated and set new goals along the way, adapting my plans to help me do what I most wanted to do. And yes, I managed to get my first book edited and set up to be published!
I loved this approach. I recommend whatever fits your current aims from this approach. However, we humans are not a one-size-fits-all people. If my alternative to resolutions doesn't work for you, try something else. Just don't get stuck lifting the same handle year after year with no results. Somewhere, there's a handle that works for you. I know it.