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3 Tips for Resetting in the New Year

These past couple of years have brought a lot of changes and unexpected challenges. For many of us, myself, included, that’s made it difficult to meet goals set for the new year.

And heading into 2022 doesn’t look all that promising either. We’re still in a pandemic, we have a lot of societal unrest, and climate change means we’ll face more extreme weather.

Given all that, I’ve been trying to decide for myself how to “reset” for the next year and think about what I’d like to change. In case that might be helpful to you, here’s what I’ve come up with.

Intentions, not goals

I’ve known for a while that it’s better to set intentions for the new year instead of goals, and yet, goals remain very appealing. They seem more concrete, and much of the time you can break them down into numbers, which are easy to measure.

But the same things that make goals appealing are what can backfire when it comes to things like eating or activity. For one, it’s easier to fall short. If you say you’re going to exercise five times a week, and then one week you only exercise three or four days, suddenly it seems like you’ve failed.

Compare that with saying, “My intention is to be active on most days.”

This still puts you in the mindset of being more active, but it’s also a little more forgiving. For example, if you get sick and miss a week of being active, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed, nor does it mean you’ve changed your intention. You just had to hit the pause button until you felt better.

This type of flexibility is always helpful, but it’s particularly important these days when so much is uncertain.

If intentions feel too nebulous, remember that changing your mindset is the most important thing you can do. The way you think about yourself and what you do has a direct impact on how you feel about things, and what actions you take.

Think about lessons learned

At this point, even though we’re all tired of the pandemic, one thing we do have is experience. We’ve lived with it long enough now that we can look back and see what we’ve learned.

For example, maybe you’ve learned just how much you reach for food when you’re stressed, or if you go for any specific foods in those times. If you’ve been working from home, you may have also learned that you prefer eating outside of typical meal times – or maybe you’ve been tempted to eat all the time because the food is right there.

See if you can identify any patterns of habits that you’ve noticed over the past couple of years, particularly things you want to change. Then think about how you could set some intentions to change those habits.

For myself, I’ve noticed that I haven’t been as diligent about writing in my journal, and even when I do, I don’t go into many details. This is particularly noticeable since I’ve been reviewing journal entries from 2003, and my entries from then were much fuller.

This lack of detail tends to be a pattern for me in difficult times because if I write about what’s going on, it makes it real. But if I don’t write about it, or gloss past it, I can stay a little in denial, and I can avoid dealing with messy emotions.

But – I also know that’s not a good strategy. So, my intention for the new year is to go deeper in my journal, most of the time, and let myself acknowledge what’s really going on, and what I’m feeling.

What can you control?

And finally, remember that if you want to change something in the new year, focus on what you can control.

For example, if you’re burned out at work or fed up with your job, don’t say, “My intention is to get a new job.” You can’t control whether or not someone will hire you.

Instead, go with something like, “My intention is to look for a new job to the best of my ability.” That’s all you can do – take the steps you can, put in your best effort, and see what happens.

And also, be realistic. If you’ve been eating lots of sweets, it’s probably not going to work if you say, “My intention is to not eat any sweets next year.” While that’s technically in your control, it's setting yourself up for failure.

Instead, try to find an approach that you can achieve, perhaps something like, “I’m going to reduce the number of sweets I eat next year.”

Another option is to consider other intentions related to mindset, like an intention to be less critical of yourself. Those types of intentions can go a long way.

What are your intentions?

With the new year less than a week away, this is a good time to think about what you’d like to change. Just remember to make intentions instead of goals, base them on things you’ve learned about yourself, and stay focused on things you can control.

If you do that, you’re likely to see some positive changes, and you’ll be better prepared to adapt to any curveballs that life may throw your way.


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