Choose themes, not resolutions

Photo by Danil Aksenov on Unsplash

Every year, I come into the new year with a list of resolutions for the new year. I’ve always noticed a major flaw with using January 1st as an excuse to finally do something I’ve been meaning to do; it delays action and encourages laziness for months, weeks, or days leading up to this grand day of January 1st when it’s just a normal day. Yet, I’ve always succumbed to declaring my resolution at every new years eve dinner party.

I have always been adamant that any goal I set must be quantifiable or where the results are clearly defined. For example, some of my previous resolutions include losing 30 lbs, working out in the morning, getting straight As in school, etc. Now, I have a confession: I’ve never once accomplished a new years resolution.

The problem with having new years resolutions is that it’s too long of a period to really maintain focus and drive. A lot can change in a year, and what motivates you on January 1st better be different than what does on August 1st. I’ve found that I’m a procrastinator. But new years resolutions aren’t really meant for people like us. The point of a new years resolution is to be who you think is a better person than you were last year. That isn’t something to procrastinate, or else you’re only trying to make up for procrastinating when it’s too late.

If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that we need to all be a little easier on ourselves and to lower our expectations. We can’t expect a great year because we cannot prepare for what the world throws our way. So, let’s replace resolutions with themes.

What is a theme?

A theme is something general that embodies the sum of what you want to work on in the upcoming year. I asked my peers what their themes were and their responses include: building, content, clarity, etc. It’s something to remember when you find yourself spiraling out of control or in a helpless hole to remind yourself of what you are working on this year. Call it your “year of ______”.

My personal theme

My theme for 2021 is patience and understanding.

Personally, patience for myself and focusing on understanding over knowing. Over the last couple of months, I found myself getting great at bullshitting. In school, I found that I was memorizing my textbooks rather than having the patience to allow myself to take time to really understand the information. In trying to lose weight, I found that I was more focused on the end goal of being a certain weight than understanding my body and being patient in listening to my body. As a result, I often find that I can come across as more knowledgeable or experienced than I feel, perpetuating a deeper-rooted feeling of imposter syndrome. But, those points aren’t necessarily all bad. I felt like last year was a huge year of growth for me. I was able to touch and skim the surface of so many realms in my life. I achieved breadth. Now, I must achieve depth.

I plan to achieve depth by focusing on patience and understanding. When I find myself taking the easier and faster way out of studying for an exam, I will look up to see the words patience and understanding on the post-it on my monitor. When I find myself frustrated that I cannot quickly understand the material, I will remember to practice patience for myself. When I track my food intake, weight, and period cycles, I will remember to use the information to better understand my body and what it needs rather than what it weighs.

I also want to practice patience and understanding in my relationships as well. Typically, I would say that I have more patience for others than myself. However, 2020 has also shown me how people can be going through things that I do not understand and that I could never know what the people around me are going through. When my classmates don’t finish their part of the project, it’s frustrating. But ranting about them to someone else won’t solve the issue but only make me more infuriated and stressed.

My joint themes

Working on relationships or on projects with others can also benefit from themes. My boyfriend was the one who introduced me to the idea of new years themes. We decided to make a theme of our own in our relationship as well. Having been through almost four years of growing up together, making memories, and more, we’re pretty stable. We’ve never even thought of having a resolution together but I think that having a theme is an amazing way to keep the relationship strong and make it stronger. We chose respect.

We always knew that we have a lot of respect for each other, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re deep in an argument or have disagreements. Especially being long distance for parts of our year, it will be important to respect each other's energy, emotions, and individual lives.


Choose themes, not resolutions for the new year. They’re flexible and can mean whatever you need it to mean. They will help you be your better self and remind you of what you want to work on without being frustrating. If a year is too long, make it your semester of ____ or your month of ____ or your season of ______. Don’t be afraid to change a theme either if you’ve exhausted the benefit from it.

I do still believe in setting resolutions or goals, but not just ones that were made on new years eve because those are cliche and often difficult to accomplish. Instead, set monthly, weekly, or daily goals. Work on problems right in front of you, not ones that feel far away. In a world where we care the most about the final product and deadlines, we must build a process to reaching those goals in a way that will not tear us down and set us up for failure.

Themes can build us up, help us to remember what is important, and to relieve us of the pressure of year-long resolutions that rarely actually make us better.

iced coffee all year round kinda gal. workout challenge enthusiast. vscode girl who writes sometimes.

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