Creating Habits for Lasting Improvement: My Approach to New Year's Resolutions

Simplify, Gratitude, and Energy: My Three Intentional Themes for 2023 - and how I'll use them to replace resolutions.
Matt 2 min read
Creating Habits for Lasting Improvement: My Approach to New Year's Resolutions
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

After Stuff #118 I had a few kind emails asking me for more insight into the 'themes' I was creating for 2023, and how I arrived at the three words I had decided on as my intentions for the year.

Rather than reply individually, I thought I'd try and capture the why behind the words.

Theme #1 - Simplify

Some parts of life are complicated, the entanglements and layers make it hard for us to move forward, and often we 'spin our wheels' trying to find meaning.  

I fight a battle against 'open loops', things that I have been engaged in but which have not 'closed', and so become baggage which overwhelms.  Classically this would be defined as 'not being a completer finisher'.  

My skills are elsewhere, but the open loops are hard to carry.

In 2023, I'm starting with the intention to simplify things. To do that I'm going to ask myself a few key questions along the way:

  • What if this (action, task, process) was simple?
  • How can I make this easier?
  • What would it mean if I didn't do this at all?

Theme #2 - Gratitude

Over the past few years, I have realised that I feel 'better' when I have paused and given thanks for the elements of my life that are good.  Whether it's work, relationships, health or even entertainment, pausing and noting that 'this is good' helps me identify and motivates me to solve some of the things that are not good.

'And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.' - Kurt Vonnegut

So, this year, I'm working on practicing gratitude with a few simple ideas:

  • Celebrating what is working for me.
  • Paying attention & acknowledging when I am happiest and finding ways to repeat.
  • Daily acknowledgement of the things I am grateful for.

Theme #3 - Energy

There is no doubt that some days we have more energy than others, and it is tempting to put that down to external factors; the wrong food, poor sleep or stress at work.  

The truth is, energy comes from making the right decisions.  

In the year ahead, I'm going to try and increase the energy I bring to bear on the things that matter to me, by asking myself these questions:

  • Am I focusing on the right things, should I be spending my cycles here?
  • Am I preparing myself in the right way?
  • How would this be better if I had 10% more energy to spend here?

Resolve not to resolve

I'm not a fan of resolutions. I think they put too much pressure on perfection and they are too easy to drop at the first hurdle.

Real improvement comes from building up layers of habits that compound.

The power of tiny gains tells us that 1% improvement per day/week/month becomes a meaningful improvement over time.

By creating 'themes', you can trigger natural breaks in your patterns to ask whether what you are doing is aligned with what you really want to achieve.

More from Matt Rutherford 👓

The Stuff that MattR's

Weekly writing on self-development and joy, with a sideline in curiosity and music.

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