Art by Alexandra Ethell
Words by Madeleine Dore
I have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s Resolutions. So often resolutions are based on shame, guilt and imbedded in unrealistic expectations – lose 10 kilos, exercise every day, quit drinking, save money and eat clean. While on the surface they appear to be about ‘doing what is best for us,’ as soon as we slip up we tend to pile on the self-loathing. What’s the good of starting the New Year with a large dose of self-hatred?
While recognising their limitations, I’m still drawn to making promises at the beginning of a year as there is something irresistible about a clean slate. Author of Better Than Before Gretchen Rubin wrote, 'There’s a magic to the beginning of anything. We want to begin right, and a good start feels auspicious.'
January 1st is the “Monday” of the year, which can help us maintain habits. ‘Anytime I’m trying to work on a habit, I make sure to follow it on Monday, because if I start my week feeling in control and virtuous, I’m more likely to maintain that good habit,’ said Gretchen.
In the spirit of starting the year right, but not setting myself up for failure, this year I have made the promise to make resolutions that won’t make me feel bad.
Where to begin? Reflection on the year past is a good start. Instead of making vague, shame-based resolutions, artist Spencer Harrison will reflect on what he has been grateful for in 2015 and set positive, achievable and measureable goals for the year ahead. For example, get better at life drawing by doing 100 figure sketches.
Similarly, artist Minna Gilligan has a New Year’s Eve tradition where she writes down all the things she have achieved throughout the year past.
‘It allows me to reflect upon the positives and encourages me to build on these positives in the impending New Year.’
‘I don't do resolutions, as such, but I often have things in my mind that I want to achieve - I have goals and plans that I'm loosely supposed to have resolved by the time the next New Year's Eve rolls around.
James Tutton notes that too many people just repeat a previous resolution and cross their fingers that it will work again.
‘For me, I need to look at two things to increase the odds of actually making change. Why do I want to pursue X resolution? If it's not really about me but rather me chasing some societal norm then poo to that, better think of a new resolution.'
It’s also a nice idea to have a mix of small, easy to accomplish goals or things you can just try for a day, and bigger year-long goals.
Brodie Lancaster has created an approach that ticks all of those boxes. Each year she will set 100 goals plus the year number, so 2016 will be 116 goals.
They will range from small things that will make her feel better or develop better habits, to big, life-changing or career-building goals broken down into smaller steps.
‘The list needs to be ready by the end of January and every single one of the 116 tasks needs to be achievable or something I can do. That's the key: it's not about feeling something or wanting something, it's about breaking big goals down into achievable parts and working towards crossing them off.
‘I haven't completed all 115 of this year's goals but having a lot to work towards has made me more productive than I could've imagined at this time last year.
Taking inspiration from Extraordinary Routines interviewees, the imagination and famous routines from history, here is masterlist of 100 resolution ideas that won’t make you feel bad about yourself in 2016.
100 resolutions that won't make you feel bad about yourself
1. Don’t reserve resolutions just for the beginning of the year. Throughout the year, ask yourself if you’re going in the right direction and if not, adjust your routine, habits and goals accordingly
2. ‘Don't rush and enjoy the ride’ – Beci Orpin
3. Read The Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron and follow the 12-week program
4. Start stream of consciousness writing (see The Artists’ Way 'Morning Pages')
5. When you wake up, write down six things things that could happen that day. Your crush will spontaneously kiss you, you’ll find $50 on the street, you’ll be impressed by something or someone. You’ll receive a compliment about your work. You’ll have an epiphany. You’ll be surprised how much can happen when you put it on paper and allow it to enter into your realm of possibility
6. Learn one song on the piano or guitar
7. Stop trying to be a morning person if you’re a night owl or vice versa – do what’s best for you
8. Conquer feelings of imposter syndrome
9. Make the bed every morning
10. ‘Make work, for the sake of making work. Believe in it and stay brave.' – Stanislava Pinchuk
11. Walk or ride your bicycle more often
12. Stop reading the entire internet when you get into bed every night. Turn your phone off or keep it at the other end of the room
13. ‘The best resolution you can ever make is to meditate daily. It may seem like a big ask but it's absolutely life changing and well worth the time and effort’ – Julia deVille
14. Try not to check your phone first thing in the morning
15. Have a weekend, a week, a month, a season or a year off drinking
16. Don’t say maybe if you want to say no
17. Be inspired by Letters of Note and find a pen pal
18. Buy a succulent plant because they are harder to kill and you can feel good for keeping a plant alive this year!
19. ‘Write a list of every significant memory in my life’ – Brodie Lancaster
20. Introduce the Sabit (a Sabbath from your habits) whereby for 24-hours each week you can break free from your routine
21. Introduce a "perfect" day where for 24-hours each week you try and live up to your ideal routine – wake up early, exercise, work on a creative project, eat well
22. Be more open with your heart – tell people how you feel and what you want
23. Wake up 30 minutes earlier to make time for creative work
24. ‘I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I’ve done that day.’ – Joan Didion
25. Take vitamins
26. Swing on swings in the park
27. Learn a new recipe every month
28. ‘Draw 100 portraits’ – Spencer Harrison
29. Be a bit bolder. Ask questions, talk to strangers, try new things. If something makes your heart pulsate with excitement and a tinge of fear, do it
30. ‘Limit takeout dinners to once per week’ – Brodie Lancaster
31. Get better at spending time alone
32. Touch your toes every morning
33. Avoid looking at your phone on public transport
34. Make a vow to stop hiding how you really feel
35. ‘Pitch to my dream magazines and websites’ – Brodie Lancaster
36. If you buy something new, give away something you don’t use
37. Try vegetarianism for a week, a month, a season or a year
38. Learn to say thank you instead of sorry. ‘Sorry for interrupting’ becomes ‘thank you for your time.’ Apologise where apologies are due, but we needn’t say sorry for simply existing
39. Switch up your routine – if you’re a night owl or an early bird, try doing something at a different time of day
40. Try to get better at remembering names
41. Take lunch breaks
42. ‘Getting on with it is more important than just dreaming about it’ – Richard Nylon
43. Introduce the ‘slow morning’ Mark Lobo style – take time making breakfast, drinking coffee, read the news, just sit
44. 'More slow reading, choosing carefully, and taking my time. More walking and sleeping. And more looking and being present in the landscape' – Melinda Harper
45. Try a recipe from the cookbook that has been sitting on your shelf for years
46. Pick a big goal – such as start a blog, write a book, or put on an exhibition – and break it into 12 steps and do something each month. Don’t worry if you don’t get there, be pleased you’ve made progress
47. Do a 30-day challenge such as a habit experiment, trying something new, FebFast or National Novel Writing Month
48. ‘Try to have greater compassion, but be smarter with where it does and doesn’t go’ – Stanislava Pinchuk
49. Stop worrying about what other people think
50. Wear something outlandish
51. ‘Finally watch all of Seinfeld’ – Brodie Lancaster
52. ‘Kill them with kindness and then fart as you walk away’ – Unknown
53. Try to be in a state of wonder, not worry
54. Learn how to play chess or backgammon
55. ‘Get four haircuts’ – Brodie Lancaster
56. Read a book a month and talk about it with other people – or join a book club as a prompt
57. Write a letter to your 80-year-old self on what you hope life has entailed
58. Host a controversial dinner party where everyone brings a dish and a controversial topic to debate
59. Find a creative partner in crime. You can write, they can draw. Whatever your skill is, combine it with another and make beautiful things
60. Embrace dull days
61. Stop wasting time with people who don’t appreciate that you are extraordinary
62. Sometimes all you can say to comfort yourself is ‘so what.’ As Andy Warhol once said, ‘Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, so what. That’s one of my favourite things to say. So what.’
63. ‘Wear way more colour. Like, a lot more’ – Lily Mae Martin
64. Be a better listener
65. Stop comparing yourself to other people. As Alain de Botton said, ‘The more you know what you really want and where you are really going, the more what everybody else is doing starts to diminish.’
66. Become more comfortable with doing nothing
67. Set specific times to check emails
68. ‘Take Auslan classes’ – Brodie Lancaster
69. Try oil pulling and floss daily
70. Sit outside in the morning sun before the day begins
71. Pay more compliments and make them not about appearances, but about character – tell someone you like their laugh, that you think they are interesting, that you are glad to have them in your life, that they are kind, inspiring, that you like how they do that thing, that they are extraordinary
72. Procrastinate better – don’t just stare at the ceiling but read, doodle, watch a new movie, clean a cupboard
73. ‘Be kinder to myself, be kinder to others, but don't take shit anymore’ – Lily Mae Martin
74. Keep a tidy room or studio
75. Don’t use plastic bags when at the supermarket
76. Buy fruit and vegetables from local market or local farmers such as Grow and Gathered.
77. Eat your food more slowly – 20 chews before you swallow
78. ‘Send birthday cards to your family’ – Brodie Lancaster
79. Do stretches or squats when you go to the bathroom (pants up people!)
80. Do push ups when you get to the top of stairs (perhaps this is an at-home resolution)
81. Write 52 poems, draw 52 portraits or make 52 new things
82. Learn to juggle
83. Listen to more podcasts and try out those with topics outside your immediate interests
84. Wash your face before bed
85. Drink water as soon as you wake up
86. ‘Carry a sketchbook with you every day’ – Beci Orpin
87. Turn one negative, repetitive thought into a positive one
88. Make notes of what good you have done that day Benjamin Franklin style
89. Play more
90. 'Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it' – Henry Miller
Madeleine’s simple 10
1. Pursue experiences, not accomplishments. Host more dinner parties, go away for the weekend, say yes to things I’ve never tried before
2. Get outside every day – to walk, run, or just sit
3. When looking at my phone out of boredom, change the habit of checking Facebook to checking Flipboard, Kindle or The Guardian app
4. Read 24 books
5. Try and meet someone new each week
6. Do free form writing for 10 minutes most days
7. Drink more green tea
8. Stop wrestling with myself so much and try to get outside myself – focus on creating things instead of creating toxic thoughts
9. Inspired by Tara Brach, practice the art of pausing. I will choose a daily ritual like brushing my teeth, making a phone call, or sipping tea and pause for a few moments, bring my awareness to what is happening within and notice if anything has changed when I return to what I am doing.
10. Simplify my commitments