New year's resolutions may not be on many people's minds this year. Who has time to make goals when we're busy swearing at 2020 and placing our hopes and bets on 2021? But don't worry if you have no resolution yet: January 1st is a good time for it, but so is any time our brains consider a "fresh start" such as Mondays, or the first day of any month, or laundry day.
This is especially important if you're trying to change your own lifestyle in order to make a difference for our planet and people. January 1st comes only once a year, but every day is a fine day to resolve to make the world better (particularly considering current events). My husband Ryan doesn't bother with new year's resolutions and the subsequent day of dropping them in February; whenever he finds a problem, he resolves to fix it right then and there.
As for me, I agree with him but enjoy celebrating to a fault, so I made a resolution to think more positively in the new year. This includes highlighting the good things in life instead of the bad, seeing all the possibilities, and not catastrophizing; 2020 was an excellent year to invoke a feeling of catastrophic outcomes, but fearing the worst helps nobody.
Planet Money was recently featured on National Public Radio in an article on how to keep resolutions, based on the science of them. Some of their advice, like choosing a fresh start, may be more obvious than other tips that go contrary to expectations. For example, one study found that people who made vague resolutions and got social support from family and friends were more likely to succeed than those who got support but created specific resolutions that were time-bound.
Based on that, "waste reduction" would be more likely to continue throughout the year than would a resolution to only produce one bag of trash per month. It works because failure is demoralizing. Resolutions should be fun or motivational, and if a goal is too specific, we may drop the whole idea if we don't achieve exact results but make progress.
It took us seven years to go off-grid, and I wish we hadn't been trained to apply S.M.A.R.T. goals to our journey. At times, it was a very demoralizing climb towards a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goal that didn't feel like it was any of those things in the moment!
Nowadays, we adopt an "always progress" mentality worthy of the tortoise who raced a hare and won. Planet Money also suggested that we focus on developing positive habits instead of eliminating negative ones if we want an easier time keeping our new year's resolutions. How about more health, more kindness, more fun, more love! What resolutions will you make this first week of 2021 (or next Monday, or next month, or next time you change your socks)?
Amanda Bancroft is a writer, artist, and naturalist living in an off-grid tiny house on Kessler Mountain. She and her husband Ryan blog about their adventures and offer tips to those wanting to make a difference at www.RipplesBlog.org.