Turn Your New Year’s Resolutions Into Systems

by Nina Meehan

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says one of my absolute favorite quotes about goals: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” As we enter the season of new year’s resolutions, which are basically goals in bunny ear disguises, I often think of Clear’s concise description of why resolutions don’t work. We can resolve all we want, but if we don’t create the systems to scaffold those resolutions, there is no way that those resolutions will get past January 17th. 

If your goals are around exercise and eating healthy, there are millions of “systems” that appear this time of year: “30 days to a Healthy You,” advertises your gym, “Yoga Fit in 45 Days,” screams a new app, “Clean Eating One Day at a Time.” a new diet program calls out.

But, what happens if your goals are less concrete? What if you desire a life that has more creativity? A worldview that is less binary and more open? What if joy and connection with others is the resolution?  Daily creative expression can help move us towards all of those things, but using Clear’s guidance, it requires systems, not just goals. 

Here are some ideas for how to give structure and scaffolding to your creative goals:

  • Choose something small that you can add into your daily routine and tag it on to something you are already doing.  For instance, if you already spend five minutes reviewing and updating your todo list every morning, add 10 minutes to start a color journal where you just explore one color each day with watercolor. 
  • Find something that you enjoy, like a dance class or zumba and mark it on your calendar weekly. Make it SACRED! The same way that you would never schedule over Thanksgiving dinner, this weekly appointment cannot be moved. Make sure everyone at work and in your family understands that this is a non-negotiable.
  • Calendar in creative breaks, the same way you might give yourself a 5 minute stretch break in between zooms, change half of those stretch times to creative times. Put on a song you enjoy listening to and sing along, doodle a fun little cartoon for your kids, dance between your desk and the bathroom…whatever feels fun and easy. 

I hope your new year’s resolutions turn into systems and structures that last a lifetime. And, if they don’t…you can always declare a new month’s resolution, a new week’s resolution or even a new day’s resolution. 

Nina Meehan is a Creativity and Communication Coach and Speaker. You can view her latest Tedx Talk at https://youtu.be/ITM2oD2mhR0.