It’s that time of year again. We’re feeling fresh, we’re feeling ready, and we decide we’re gonna make a change.  

First, we make big promises to ourselves and cram in a handful of new habits; then, we put those promises aside as we attend to real life; and finally, we get disappointed in ourselves for letting ourselves down. 

We said it before, and we’ll say it again: New Year Resolutions are built to fail. We all know 2020 was a difficult year, and for 2021, we’re recommending a softer approach. We’ll break down how to really see change this year, and what that can look like. But first, let’s get to the bottom of why resolutions don’t work.

Why most resolutions fall apart 

1. They’re resolute. Resolute literally means unwavering. There’s no flexibility, and without flexibility, there’s little room for real life. No matter how badly we want to get up at 6am every day, there will always be nights we need (or want!) to stay up for.  

2. They’re full of “shoulds.” Think about your old resolutions. Were you passionate about them? Did imagining going through the process make you smile? Or did they feel more like ticking boxes? Like things society tells you that you should do, rather than something you want to do? To achieve a goal, knowing your why is incredibly important.  

3. They’re ideas, not plans. A resolution could be something like, “Open a restaurant,” and wow! What a big resolution! But that resolution isn’t going anywhere without a plan. Big goals require planning. They require attempting to achieve many tiny goals over and over. And that’s a good thing. We can think of small goals as less impressive, but they are the nails and mortar of that big goal.  

 

So what’s a replacement for resolutions? 

If you’ve already written some resolutions for this year, don’t worry, it’s easy to adapt them. Over the next month, we’ll be sharing our favorite strategies for making real change, including: 

  • Forgoing resolutions completely and instead choosing a theme for the year 
  • Changing resolutions into “practices,” an idea we found on Cynyassy’s Instagram 
  • And shifting toward a “Little Steps” approach 

Say your resolution is to do something kind for yourself every day. That’s a pretty beautiful resolution. But uh, where exactly do you start? It’s easy with a goal like that to find yourself in bed at 11pm thinking, “oh crap.” Instead, start with little stepsLittle Steps mean breaking those big resolutions into action plans that are actually achievable.  

What do “little steps” actually look like? 

Let’s stick with the resolution to do something kind for yourself every day. Your little steps might look like this: 

  • Make a Note in your phone of things you can do for yourself so you can add to it as you think of things 
  • Write a few things in the Note that you know work as self-care for you. Maybe that’s taking a bath, spending time with a pet, making a cup of tea, meditating — you get the idea. 
  • Look at your calendar for tomorrow and decide when you’ll do something kind for yourself. Maybe decide in advance what that activity will be.  
  • Block that time off and set a reminder. 
  • Actually do your scheduled self-care activity. 
  • Journal about how it felt to take that time for yourself. 
  • Repeat. 

Those are little steps. And they’re the best way to see real progress. The truth is, 2020 put us all at a little bit (OK, a lotta bit) of an energy deficiencyIn 2021, think gentle, little steps. If this is truly a brand new you, then that fresh face deserves to be treated like the seedling it is: with tender care, patience, and forgiveness.  

What makes “Little Steps” so special? 

Little Steps also allow for change. Imagine for a second you’ve got that big resolution to open a restaurant. With Little Steps, your list of goals might look more like get a job as a line cook, work on new recipes, share recipes with friends, create a menu, test recipes on friends, create a restaurant concept,” etc., etc. With Little Steps, you can change the order, reprioritize, and even find that maybe your really big goal actually changes. Maybe going through the Little Steps helps you see that restaurant life isn’t really for you, but you love making new recipes. Where could that information take you?  

With smaller steps, we get to enjoy the scenery of the journey. We can enjoy the little hamlets and valleys and knolls on the way to the mountaintop… and maybe even realize we actually prefer one of those places.  

Add your own Little Steps in the Goals section under Tools in the Sanvello app. You can rate how difficult you think they’ll be, and then rate them again after you complete each step. For most little steps, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see we often think they’ll be more difficult than they are. And as you tick them off one by one, be sure to thank yourself.  

Want to get inspired and see how others are breaking their resolutions down into Little StepsHop over to the Goals Community in the app on your mobile device, and join the conversation in our team’s latest post. 

 

By Kelton Wright Vice President Content, Strategy and Production at Sanvello

Kelton is an author, editor, and athlete passionate about helping people live happier lives. She’s taught mindfulness to NFL coaches, led hundreds of women through cycling clinics, written an Amazon best seller on dating, and worked with brands like Runner’s World, Rapha, Headspace, Teen Vogue, Bicycling Magazine, Thrive Market, Skratch Labs, Peloton Magazine, and more all with the mission of empowering others. She is currently the VP of Content, Strategy, and Production at Sanvello. Follow her on Instagram: @keltonwrites