New year, same me? A different approach to new year’s resolutions

Happy new year, friends! As I write this on the morning of January 1, I’m downing coffee and nursing a terrible headache — not because I went too hard last night (sparkling mineral water was the most exciting thing I drank) but because I’m 30 now and this is apparently how I’m going to feel whenever I stay up past midnight. Nonetheless, I am feeling excited for 2022 and, quite honestly, all that my 30s will have in store.

To be clear, though, I’m not approaching the start of the new year in the same Pollyanna-esque way that I’ve done in the past. I’m not thinking that I will sail through 2022 on a rainbow unicorn, and I’m not expecting the changing of the calendar to magically instill me with all the discipline and virtue I need to crush my life goals. I’m still the same Paige I was yesterday, and I’m still going to struggle to get enough sleep, floss my teeth, and avoid wasting time on social media. I know that just as this year will inevitably bring joy, beauty, and wonderful memories to cherish, it will also bring suffering, sorrow, and challenge, because that’s just how life works. But I’m still looking forward to it. 2019, 2020, and 2021 were all different flavors of difficult, but these years also blessed me beyond measure. I met the love of my life, landed a job I enjoy more days than not, re-launched the blog, deepened existing friendships and made new ones, and grew spiritually in ways that are hard to even put into words. It’s exciting — and also kinda scary — to think of all that 2022 will contain that we have yet to discover.

And this time around, I’m taking a different approach to new year’s resolutions, which is to say that I’m not making any resolutions at all. I’m someone who almost always drafts a laundry list of SMART goals and objectives during the last week of December and starts January 1 with twenty-seven new habits to track and benchmarks to meet. Sometimes I make decent progress and sometimes I don’t, but either way, it’s exhausting and I’m over it. At first I thought that maybe I was just being lazy or needed a little inspiration, but then I listened to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Pantsuit Politics, and had a lightbulb moment.

In this particular episode, entitled “How Do You Measure A Year?,” hosts Sarah and Beth take a break from discussing the news to chat with their behind-the-scenes crew about setting goals and intentions for the upcoming year. I really resonated with what Alise, their managing director, said about her newfound approach. She explained that because she’s pretty Type A throughout the year, with a “tight handle” on all of the tracking and to do lists, she’s been trying to set more general intentions for the new year rather than creating an endless list of resolutions that will inevitably lead to disappointment and failure.

As she spoke these words, all of my to do lists, spreadsheets, Gantt charts, and meal planning templates suddenly flashed before my eyes. I saw the systems, structures, and routines I have already developed, and perhaps even more importantly, I saw the regular checkpoints I’ve already built in to help me continually reflect and assess progress. And as this montage played out, I realized that I don’t have to set twenty-seven new goals for 2022, and my lack of desire to do so stems not from laziness but from my mind and body signaling that I’m already doing enough. To add more would tip the scales toward exhaustion and burnout. Mic. Drop.

After this epiphany, I decided that in lieu of the traditional resolutions, I’m going to continue with my “word of the year” practice, but with a slight twist. For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed using Jen Fulwiler’s Word of the Year Generator to select a word at random — and I encourage you to try it if you’re so inclined. (She also has a Saint of the Year Generator that’s pretty dope, too.) But more recently, I’ve found it beneficial to choose the word myself and to do so monthly rather than yearly. For many of us, I know the pandemic has felt like a time warp, where days, weeks, and months slip by in a blur of yoga pants, Zoom meetings, and Tik Tok rabbit holes. Choosing a word of the month helps me to see each 30-day period for the microcosm that it truly is and to better hone in on what I need at that particular time.

For example, last October my word was “celebrate.” The month was full of festivities — from birthdays and anniversaries to work trips and my sister’s wedding — and I knew that my natural tendency would be to panic about all the things I wasn’t able to accomplish as a result of my packed social calendar. “Celebrate” helped me to set my to-do list aside and be present for these special moments, remembering that the time to clean and run errands and work on wedding planning would come, just not now. Similarly, my word for December was “adore,” since I knew that the hustle and bustle of the holiday season would make it difficult for me to keep the true meaning of Christmas at the forefront of my mind and heart. “Adore” reminded me of the need to set aside time for stillness, prayer, and reflection amidst it all. Sometimes this meant literally going to the chapel for adoration, and other times it meant forgoing a social activity to stay home and enjoy quietly cooking dinner by the light of the Christmas tree.

For January, I’ve chosen the word “pause.” As work has gotten busier than ever and wedding planning has really taken off, I’ve begun to feel frantic and rushed on a daily basis. I’m hoping that “pause” will help me to take a deep breath and assess which tasks are truly urgent so that I can make progress at a more sustainable pace. I’ve also noticed that I haven’t been listening as well as I’d like — to others, to God, and even to myself and my own needs. “Pause” will remind me to stop and tune into these critical voices rather than drowning them out with incessant noise. And finally, as I shared in my last post, in all of my excitement to get married, I don’t want to miss out on the beauty of this season of engagement. “Pause” will allow me to stop and smell the roses, both literally and figuratively, as we plan our nuptials.

I don’t know what my word for February will be — or for any other month, for that matter. I’ll discern that when the time comes, based on where I’m at and what I need. But I went ahead and created a list of words I find inspiring, and I wanted to share it in case you’d like to join me in this practice. I’ve intentionally avoided words like “accomplish” or “achieve,” since these sound a bit too much like traditional resolutions. But if that’s what speaks to you at this moment, go for it, my friend!

If you’d prefer a simple list to the word cloud shown above, you can download the PDF below.

So whether you set twenty-seven objectives or are simply approaching 2022 with a venti Starbucks and a dream, I’m wishing you and your loved ones 365 days filled with joy, beauty, intention, and growth.