If you can’t keep that commitment to clean out your email inbox at the end of each day, make it to the gym every morning or skip coffee in favor of herbal tea, you’re not the only one. Studies show that only eight percent of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions long-term.
The good news: January 1st isn’t the only day to turn over a new leaf. Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before and The Happiness Project, advocates for defining a one-word theme for the year over a more traditional resolution. Putting a positive mantra into action, whether it’s explore, dream or impact, makes every day a fresh new start, rather than laying down a set of rules you’re unlikely to follow. Here’s how to make the goal stick.
A theme may work better than a traditional resolution.
“The one-word theme is really meant to be something that embraces your higher expectations and the big idea you want to play out over the year,” Rubin says. Her past choices include make and bigger. “It depends on what you want. For me, bigger was just about thinking bigger and having a bigger vision with more possibility.”
Choose the one-word focus that works for you.
For Asha Dahya, TV host and creator of Girl Talk HQ, the theme is passion. “Wake up every day. Find something that you’re passionate about, whether it’s a hobby, your job, a lifestyle, or something you do for fun,” she explains. “Do everything with passion every day. For me, it’s changed my life.”
Rubin, on the other hand, is mixing it up this year with a two-word focus: lighten up. “I know that when I lighten up, when I see the funny side and remind myself to keep things in perspective, I’m more pleasant to be around—for myself and for other people,” she says. “I am more resilient and flexible and keep things in perspective better. This is something that I work on constantly, but I decided this year I was going to elevate it to be my whole theme.”
Put it into action.
Although thinking of an empowering theme is a fun, creative way to help you get started, Rubin emphasizes that the act of simply choosing one is not enough – you must also create a real plan. “How would you translate it into something that would actually happen?” she asks. For example, a theme of adventure could mean taking three trips throughout the year—so pull out the calendar and start planning. A theme of fun might involve starting a book club or trying a new cuisine each week.
The best part of choosing a theme rather than a resolution? Rubin summarizes, “It’s aiming you toward a higher, happier goal.”