No more New Year’s resolutions

Forget New Year's resolutions; set intentions instead, says Dwayna Covey

No more New Year's Resolutions | Beautiful lady looking out of the balcony

Every year, January 1st comes and goes whether the world or we are ready or not. The New Year has started and it has the possibility to take us where no year has ever taken us! Dreams, goals and new beginnings are right here in our grasp waiting for us to put them into action. Time is a wasting, get going and hang on for the amazing ride ahead. Whoaaaa! Wait a minute, you might say. I was not ready for the New Year. I have work still left to do from last year, unmet goals, relationships left ’unattended’, financial constraints and weight to lose from all that holiday eating in the year before last!


New year, new resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions are the promises you set in motion immediately after the clock strikes midnight on December 31st [ok, so maybe immediately after you kiss your honey and have a toast]. Work less, have more fun, travel, exercise, find love, spend less, eat well, eat more, eat less, lose weight, forgive and forget—all these resolutions are eagerly waiting. So many things to do… Whew, I am exhausted!

Who created this resolution idea anyway?

With the New Year bell we give ourselves a list of ‘new beginnings’ that is a mile long. Some of us write out our New Year’s resolutions with big bold colourful markers on huge flipchart paper and hang it in our office, living room or bathroom walls in an attempt to keep the ideas fresh in our minds. It can be so easy to forget what we have committed to [this is especially true of  me!]. Seriously, do I really need another reminder not to eat that lime cheesecake, which is full of 750 delicious calories? Yes, yes, I believe I do!

Meet the resolution setter

There are those who outline their laundry list of New Year’s resolutions in an electronic document with elaborate spreadsheets, graphs and tracking systems. These are what I call the ‘serious’ resolution setters. They want to see measurable outcomes in order to look back and see how far they have come, and where they still need to go. I confess I have pretended [many times over] to be this person. I start off with a bang, creating beautiful lists and spreadsheets with timelines and success factors only to stumble across them months later to find just one tracking entry. I then get surprised like this is the first time I have seen this gorgeous ‘to do’ list. For this purpose, it serves me well to have an out-of-sight, out-of-mind operating system!

After I am done patting myself on the back for having created such an amazing document [yes, this is a ritual—you would think I would eventually learn!] I then and only then, take time to read what I originally wrote. It goes something like this: Get in shape—lose 15 pounds [the same 15 pounds I have lost and found again several times in the past 15 years];  Eat healthy—no sugar, carbs and especially no beer [now, that is just self-punishment!].

So far, not looking good!

Soon, the impressed state with my own being starts to dwindle. The self-pity kicks in; the tears begin to well up in my eyes [no wonder my brothers used to call me faucet—let’s not go there].

This beautiful tracking tool that was meant to give me support, guidance and measurable outcomes has been reduced to a list of non-compliant, incomplete to-do’s, climbing on to my back like a very large, very heavy monkey who gets more enjoyment in weighing me down than playing in the jungle!

Dealing with my inner monkeys

Once we get in that spin of beating ourselves up, it gives free reign for the monkey to clamber away on our back. This can suck our energy and not leave any fuel in the tank [or the backup reserves] to deal with the unavoidable everyday stressors. Our bodies thrive on having some levels of stress; it is like a little power juice to keep us driven. It is when we let the stress grow into a full family of monkeys that it feels like an uphill battle to see any measure of success [even when we are having some].

If you have ever had such a creature on your back, then you know it can be very difficult once he or she, and their entire family has landed and grabbed a hold. And it can be very difficult to push, pull, shake or knock the critters off. Yes, I know they are cute, yet they sure are heavy buggers! My mama always said you get more bees with honey than vinegar; so I akin this to you get more monkeys with bananas than you do with turnips. It is about finding the sweet spot!

Out with the traditional New Year’s resolutions

In recent years, I have taken a step back from making traditional New Year’s resolutions, as they do not work for me. I may get some short-term satisfaction in setting the resolution and creating my beautiful flip-chart or Excel spreadsheet, yet it does not sustain itself or me. I have read that anywhere from 45 – 80 per cent of all New Year’s resolutions set at the strike of 12 will fail. This seems less about moving mountains and more about keeping the monkeys off our backs.

So now I have become an intention setter, using the late weeks in December and early January to reflect on the passing months—to fully acknowledge and honour the successes that I have had [yes the little ones count too]. This involves taking the time to sit in quiet; it does not need to be for hours on end in a locked away chamber; it is more about giving yourself ‘intentional’ time and space away from the daily hub-bub; taking a walk in the woods, journal writing, meditating or whatever method gives your mind some rest to hear ‘itself’ think. Yes, this can be scary!

How I make my resolutions work

I have found success in using a gratitude jar to ‘track’ activities, a-ha’s and all around grateful moments. I write them down on a little piece of paper, fold it up and put it in a jar; there it sits until December when I read them. It is a great reminder of my accomplishments, activities and human connections lived in the past entire year.

January gives way to taking what I have learned in the past year, and what I want to learn or do and that’s how I set intentions. It  is less about flicking the New Year’s switch, and more about a process; one that changes and morphs as the months ahead tick away. I can feel the monkeys beginning to start  their descent!

I revisit my intentions at the New Moon each month. What works, I continue, what does not—I let go of or modify. Easy peasy! No beating myself up, no crying, so stress. Ok, sometimes I have to breathe a little to let things go.

Success with intentions comes through building habits to support what we want to happen; the action to keep the energy moving. Our parents knew what they were doing when they taught us to brush our teeth at the same time each day; it became a habit—not something as adults we typically have to give much energy to.

My intentions in the New Year

This New Year an intention for me is: write every day for five minutes. I hear you saying, “What the heck are five minutes going to do for you?” Habit building, that is what! Baby steps, people, baby steps! This is the stuff that success is made of!

January is a rebirth; and you thought we only did the born thing once! It is not only the beginning of the calendar year but a time for feeling the excitement of what might be and finding your happy self by putting your intentions out there and creating action around them. What do you intend for the New Year, what do you dare to dream, and what actions are you willing to put into place? It is all up to you—it is your dreams, your goals and your life—no matter what those monkeys tell you!

An older version of this was first published in the January 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing and has been modified for topicality.

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Dwayna Covey
Dwayna M Covey MEd., is a performance consultant, speaker, certified laughter leader, laughter yoga teacher and reiki master. She is currently member of the Board of Directors for the Association for Applied Therapeutic Humour. Her enthusiasm, authenticity and humour empower the courage in others to create the life they want. Read her column, “A Dose of Dwayna” at


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