How to Kickstart 2015 (No Resolutions Required)

Let’s face it, even well-intentioned resolutions get played out quickly. They tend to be so joyless, focused on what we won’t do or be for the new year, and such a flaw-centered mentality isn’t the way to make positive changes. And not only that, but we make resolutions in a post-holiday haze, swearing off bad habits FOR THE YEAR. That’s a lot to bite off in the wee hours of January 1. No wonder resolutions are tough to keep.

So instead of zeroing in on the thing that needs fixing, we suggest that you come at New Year’s resolutions in a fresh, forward-thinking way. Here are three different takes to excite and inspire change in 2015:

1. Dive into something you love
Recently we found an excellent, inspiring, and funny list of New Year’s resolutions at the online magazine Thought Catalog. The best of the bunch? Putting your resources—energy, time, money—into activities that bring you joy.

Think about the huge bump gym memberships get this time of year. Is it because people really love treadmills, elliptical trainers, and free weights? For most, probably not. You’re there because you want to get fit or lose weight, perhaps, and the gym becomes an obligation. An important one, yes, but one easily gone to the wayside when the novelty wears off.

Love movies? Watch more. Learn more about them. Adore make-up? Learn more about colors, ingredients, techniques. Love pastries? Buy or borrow a cookbook and make magic with sugar and eggs. As Lev Novak at Thought Catalog writes, “invest in something you’ll like and like yourself for doing.”

2. Resolve to address the stress first
Quitting a bad habit is by all means a worthy goal. But that isn’t where you start. Big life changes like weight management or, say, cutting back on overwork are thorny and tough because they’re usually all tied up with how you manage stress.

Here’s what I mean. You want to work no more than 40 hours a week. The first few weeks are great; you’re home for dinner every night. But then a client freaks out and her stress triggers your stress and you flip into survival mode, working all hours, missing sleep, as long as the job gets done—and your life looks just like it did pre-resolution.

Change has to start with with resolving to understand what pushes you into the red zone. Once you know your stress triggers, you can find and craft tools to help you manage the effect of the stress. Then, when you commit to new choices and changes, you’re much more prepared for the natural ups and downs to come.

(Read more on addressing your stress.)

3. Commit to a shorter timeframe, instead of a whole year at once
No one stands by the importance of managing the effects of stress more than meQuilibrium, but even we don’t believe in making a blanket, yearlong, “I will address my stress” resolution when the clock ticks into the new year.

Instead, we suggest small goals bound by reasonable time limits. Can you consistently work on your bedtime routine for two weeks with the goal of lights out, no electronic devices, by 10 p.m.? Yes, you can. Can you walk for 20 minutes every day at lunch for two weeks? Yes, you can.

This year, step out of the cycle. Commit to a joy, address your stress, and think sprints, not a marathon. You’ll find the resolve for your resolutions.