Ditch new year's resolutions and give every new year a practical theme to chase instead

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  • Thobekile Masombuka speaks about her practical approach to the start of a new year.
  • Each year she would write down a list of things that she promised herself she’d do but now she does things a little differently.
  • You also have the option to choose the things that will challenge and grow you for the better; and have a fun, fruitful, resolutionary year!

I never really went out much as a teen, so I always had ample time to think about my life and what I wanted of it. 

In Grade 11, I decided to write down New Year’s resolutions as I had a habit of doing every year.

Each year I would write down a list of things that I promised myself I’d do but then somewhere in the course of the year, that list would get lost and with it, the fiery will and determination I had when I compiled the list. 

Sound familiar?

This time, though, nearing the end of 2012, I believed that my determination would be different. Why? Because I told myself that if the Mayans turned out to be wrong about the world ending (I didn’t want it to end just yet), I would show my gratitude by actually doing the things I promised to do. 

2013 came and I didn’t do most of what I had written down – no surprise there. 

For years after, I stopped bothering with resolutions because I eventually got honest with myself and knew that no matter how long and detailed the list was, and no matter how many books I scribbled it in with coloured felt-tip pens, I never actually did any of the things I wished to do. 

There was nothing wrong with this: I know myself to be a person who doesn’t work very well with loosely written to-do lists, especially when there is no real urgency to the task or a consequence that awaits should I fail to complete it. 

And then in 2017, I completed my honours degree.

This year was to be the one time that I would study exactly what I wanted and, for the first time in my whole life as a student, it was the course that I gave my all to. 

READ MORE | What's in store for you this year?

After facing a rejection scare and actually getting accepted, I felt grateful and in my gratitude and excitement, I told myself that 2017 would be my year of firsts, paying homage to the fact that I would be pursuing the first year as a postgraduate student in a field I was incredibly passionate about. 

Two weeks or so after declaring that theme to myself, one of my brothers announced that we should make a trip to the beach in Durban. I had never been to the beach, and in January 2017, I went there for the first time. 

As the year went on, whenever I came across something I had never done before, I dared myself to try it (I was obviously selective about what I tried because becoming a drug addict is nothing anyone aspires to). 

Some things were as big as organising a camp weekend for the youth group at church and others as small as trying sushi and yoga.

This did more for me than creating memories and experiences I would have otherwise missed for lack of courage and sense of adventure. I grew so much as an individual; and because of this I carried the theme over to 2018. 

READ MORE | What exactly is dry January?

In speaking publicly for the first time, I became more confident. In trying makeup for the first time, I overcame my fear of standing out. In going on a hot air balloon ride for the first time, I was opened to a world I never knew existed for me. 

In daring myself to try things for the first time, I ended up challenging myself in ways that a list of dos and don'ts could never have possibly accomplished for me. 

This, of course, is personal, and no one formula can work for everyone; but if you’ve been struggling to keep to your resolutions, why not try a different approach? 

Pick a theme for your year and follow through with it. The broader the theme is, the more you could do with it. Pick something that is both important and personal to you, and that can challenge you to be better.

Make sure it’s something that you can choose to do and not something you’d have to wait to happen to you, eg. a year of self-reward versus a year of blessings.

READ MORE: You've got this! We asked 6 women what makes them feel confident

Make it positive, practical and pleasurable. Instead of saying to yourself, “This year I will not be afraid”, rather say “this year is my year of courage” – own it. Make the theme something you could use as a caption in all your Instagram posts: short enough to remember, and powerful enough to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside every time you think of it.

Apply the theme to every aspect of your life, every chance you get. The theme you choose should be about your growth as an individual, so choose something that can apply to the financial, personal, physical and spiritual aspects of your life. The more you remind yourself of the theme, the more opportunities you’ll find to practice living it out. 

Here are some examples of ones you could try: 

• The year of wellness

• The year of ‘new and improved’

• The year of yes (shout out to Shonda Rhimes)

• The year restoration

• The year of unconditional and abundant love

• The year of leaving my comfort zone 

1. I bought makeup for the first time and wore it to work without washing it off straight after a meeting

2. I tried incorporating animal print into my wardrobe - and it was (almost) a disaster

3. I'm a tomboy and ditched my baggy sweaters and plain jeans for Instagram-inspired looks

4. I took a taxi for the first time ever in Joburg after days of practicing my "after robot" exclamation

5. I rocked a blazer without a shirt underneath and it was liberating in every sense of the word

Choose the things that will challenge and grow you for the better; and have a fun, fruitful, resolutionary year!

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