I have a few New Year’s Day traditions.
We eat pork chops, black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread — every year. It’s a Southern thing for prosperity and health. And who can’t use a little abundance to kick off the new year?
I fill the first day of my new year with things I love and things I want to continue throughout the year. Hobbies I enjoy, habits I want to cultivate. I’m also mindful of my thoughts and moods — something I should do daily anyway, right?
And I set a single New Year’s Resolution. That’s right — ONE.
For many years, I made lists and lists of things I wanted to do and accomplish. Things I wanted to quit and things I needed to start. I micromanaged my shortcomings like a schoolmarm into checklists and bullet-pointed agendas, determined that — this year! — I was going to fix some shit.
We don’t even need to discuss how that turned out.
It was three years ago when I realized the problem was focus. Change is hard, even when you’re concentrating on changing. Trying to change thirty things at once is impossible — especially when the changes that are really meaningful tend to take altering who we are and how we function on a base level.
So, I decided that I would choose a single resolution and stick with it the entire year. I chose something that was a significant problem, something foundational. Many of my habits are symptomatic — in other words, they aren’t really the problem, they are the symptom of the problem. Treating the symptom is for comfort. Treating the cause is the goal of change.
In the days leading up to 2018, I looked at my life and noticed that FEAR was a huge underlying pattern. If I pulled up the carpet, peeled off the wallpaper, underneath all the surface things I didn’t like was fear. Fear of failing. Fear of being. Fear of trying. Fear of rejection. Fear of fear. (No, I’m not joking.)
So, I adopted a single mantra for 2018: Be Brave. And for all of 2018, I focused all my choices, all my thoughts, all my accountability through that mantra. Was the choice I was making brave or was I being led by fear? Where did this fear come from? Does it serve me? Am I willing to push through it? Do the thing I’m afraid of doing?
2018 was a challenging year, to say the least. January, I nearly died. February, I decided life was too short for toxic people or being unhappy. I found a therapist — arguably, one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. And the year rolled by, me challenging my past, my own thought patterns, the lies I’d taken for truth for far too long. Every step, every decision — am I being brave? Is what I’m doing moving me towards or away from my goal?
I found the mantra of a single resolution to be like a magnifying glass for my power — gathering it, focusing it, summoning the fire of my will. It was easy to be accountable for a single thing every night. All I had to do was ask how I did that day with my goal. Over the course of the year, smaller sub goals popped up, and of course, I acted on them in light of my mantra. But for a year, I got to practice one thing.
By the time 2019 rolled around, I’d gotten pretty good at being brave. I accomplished more in 2018 than I’d ever managed with lists upon lists. So, that’s been my habit now for the last three years. Last year, my mantra was Create and Blossom. I finished my book, wrote a dozen short stories, build this website, started my writing podcast that’s still going strong, placed in a short story competition, and so much more.
One goal. One focus. Massive, fundamental change cascading through hundreds of smaller actions over the course of the year. Not only does it work, I realized how easy it was to see how I had changed over the course of the year. Noticeable growth and improvement. Because I was making one big shift through the accumulation of thousands of smaller daily ones.
I’m excited for 2020. I like the 20/20 vision aspect. How it’s possible to create the things that we see for ourselves. I’m excited about my single resolution for the upcoming year and where it leads me (I’ll tell you when we get to the end of 2020 — promise).
If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of change, if you’ve had too many failures with goal-setting in the past, you might find the same success I’ve had with dedicating the upcoming year to a single growth theme. If you do, I’d love to hear about your success!