Perhaps 2021 wasn’t the dumpster fire of 2020, but it definitely had its own set of struggles. It’s been challenging. It has asked us to grow in ways we never thought we’d have to. We’ve all but given up on a possible return to the “normal” we knew pre-pandemic. We’re rolling with the punches that just seem to keep on coming. We are learning to be human in the best ways we know how. And yet, we are still here.

When the calendar year comes to a close, it’s easy to say, “I’m so glad that’s done,” and simply move on to the next. We generally like to focus on the future and set resolutions (aka expectations) for how we’re gonna do better next year. However, pretending like the past year didn’t happen won’t do us any good, and setting lofty expectations for ourselves in the form of new year’s resolutions probably won’t bring us much closer to our goals. So, I propose we take a more intentional approach to new year’s practices. Whip out a piece of paper or your favorite note-taking app and see what you’ve got to say about these ideas.

  1. Reflect: Take some time to look back on the past year. What has happened? What have you accomplished? What have you learned? What was really challenging? What surprised you? Perhaps this has been a big, eventful year for you with a lot of changes. Maybe your life looks very different now than it did 12 months ago. Or, you might read these questions and think, “Hmm, not a whole lot happened this year.” And that’s okay, too! Whatever comes to mind as you reflect on 2021, spend some time with it. This year is a part of your story, and your story is one worth telling.
  2. Appreciate: Once you’ve got an idea of what the heck actually happened last year, see if you can exercise some gratitude for all you did and experienced. They taught you things and showed you parts of yourself that you hadn’t met before. You are who you are today in part because of what happened in 2021 and how you responded. This year had a unique purpose of its own. It has set you up for the new year to come. In addition to all this, and more importantly, give yourself a pat on the back for living through another year! You got up every day and put one foot in front of the other. For just that simple act, you deserve a ton of gratitude.
  3. Intend: When we think of new year’s practices, we mostly think of making resolutions. These usually involve adding something in or taking something out of your life, and rarely stick with us for more than a month. This year, try something different: setting an intention. The beauty of intention is that it allows you to get truly in touch with your values and does not hold you to a strict framework. You are allowed to be as creative as you want. You can intend to get some more fresh air in 2022, and let that intention take you from daily lunchbreak walks to a newfound hobby in mountain biking. If you had set your resolution as “taking a walk every day”, you might not have opened your horizons enough to see this new fun thing as actually aligned with your intention. This intention can guide you through 2022 in a way that is more authentically true to you.

I want to challenge us to aim for growth instead of fulfilling resolutions. Use these ideas to help you set a grounded, present framework for 2022. Reflect on all you have experienced, appreciate how you have grown and set an intention to guide your new year. Your life is yours, and you get to decide what “better” means for you in 2022. Wherever this next year leads you, I hope it leads you even just a bit closer to where you want to be.