3 Low-Pressure Ways to Kick Off the New Year- Sarah Westfall

I’m by nature an achiever. I thrive on to-do lists, tasks accomplished, and an occasional pat on the back. About this time of year, I love setting new goals for myself—as a mom, a writer, a wife, and so on. However, I tend to be unrealistic, to do too much too soon. I’m that woman who buys the beautiful brand-new Nike running shoes but then tries to do 10 miles the first time out—the Nikes retired to the closet for the rest of the year.

And as a mom of four young boys, my margin for setting lofty goals is slim. But I’m learning that New Years goals don’t have to be tedious or unattainable. In fact, I’ve found a few low-pressure ways to grow without growing weary.

1. Choose a word for the year.

Okay, this concept isn’t new, but it’s one that I have tried and found to be a good baseline for shaping my outlook, attitude, and priorities. Here’s how it works: Think about what you want in the coming year—a task you’d like to accomplish or an area in which you’d like to grow. Then, choose one word that will act as your focus for the year. Common examples include “intentional,” “joyful,” “grateful,” or “balanced.”

2. Create a reading list.

If you aren’t a reader, don’t skip this one! Remember, we’re talking low-pressure goals. No matter your past relationship with books, you can challenge yourself to start small. Pick one book, a blog, or even a magazine to tackle in the year ahead. More hard-core readers can put together a bona fide list of books. Carefully select reading material that will both grow and refresh you. Personally, I choose a few books in three categories: fiction, parenting, and personal/spiritual growth.

3. Do a January cleanse.

You can do anything for 31 days, right? And the good news this isn’t a new fad diet. Think of it more like a “system reset.” The premise is simple: Reflect on your day-to-day life and ask: Is there a habit that’s turned unhealthy or has me feeling off balance? What’s robbing me of joy? Consider the whole mind-body-spirit spectrum and what’s within your control to change. Then, in January, “cleanse” yourself of this unhealthy habit, either by cutting something out or adding in positive habits. This way, you aren’t making a year-long commitment, but you can essentially wipe the slate clean and achieve better life balance.

For example, I plan on completely signing off social media in January. I check Facebook and Instagram way too often, and it’s stealing from my time with family and my creative energy. By eliminating social media for 31 days, I hope to stop reaching for my phone every 15 minutes and make space to create, write, reflect, and better connect with the people around me.

No matter how you kick start the New Year, the achiever in me hopes that you will use this time of year to embrace growth—a chance for change and redemption and transformation. May you find a way to celebrate fresh starts, moving forward, and crossing things off the to-do list—while also allowing yourself to be human in the year ahead.

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