Yearly Themes: A Better New Year’s Resolution

December 15, 2020
Posted in Tools
December 15, 2020 Zach Parcell

As December rolls on, many come to this grand idea that they spin into a new year’s resolution. They plant a flag, often either too ambitious or not ambitious enough, and throw all their energy behind it for a two-week period before slowly fading away back into their old habits. Quite simply, new year’s resolutions don’t work. Setting a yearly theme as an alternative can serve as a foundation and path forward simultaneously.

Key Takeaways

  • Setup the entire year as your timeline
  • Focus on more than one individual thing
  • Treat this year as the start of something for continuous growth

What is a Yearly Theme?

I first got introduced to the yearly theme by the podcast Cortex. Hosts Myke Hurley and CGP Grey have been establishing a yearly theme for a few years now and have actually built it into a whole framework, the Theme System Journal. I am a fan of the Theme System Journal they developed, but more on that in a moment.

Change takes time, especially personal change. If you don’t see results right away, you start to get in your head about a lack of improvement or progress and your mind will take over and you shut down.

As both a foundation and path forward, you set a guiding light and give yourself a full 12 months to really make that progress.

You might not be ready to tackle a certain personal project in January. Instead, you can invest time and energy into building a foundation to make that easier down the road.

Within each yearly theme, you should have some guiding principles to help you stay on track. These aren’t necessarily goals, but items to help keep you honest. These can even be smaller themes within the main one.

You’ll soon build momentum which will help keep things moving toward your ultimate goals.

Example Yearly Themes

Yearly themes can be crafted to just about anyone. Let’s go with a common example of someone wanting to lose weight. A new year’s resolution might say you want to lose 15 pounds. That might take you a few months if you are very dedicated to it, but the longer it takes, the less likely you are to hit that goal.

As a yearly theme around weight loss, you could set up the Year of Health. Right out of the gate, you expand the scope from weight loss to a healthy lifestyle. You can break it down to physical activity, healthy diet, and mental health.

Within physical activity, it’s about establishing a regular workout routine. Start slow. It isn’t about going to the gym three days a week right away. Heck, maybe it starts as just researching local gyms, finding the right fit for you. Once you head to the gym, you don’t have a weight lifting goal or a specific time on a treadmill or bike. It’s just establishing the habit. Once you find a gym, the next goal is to try a bike, treadmill, rowing machine, etc… While you’re finding your favorite route forward, you’re actually getting in shape.

For eating healthy, it’s establishing a day of the week when you don’t eat meat. You don’t jump to full vegetarian, but you explore a new flavor palate all together. You cut out snacks, but still keep your regular diet. Once that is established, you move forward to a new concept. Twelve months later, you’ve actually introduced many new concepts, but you take your time getting there. If you do it right, 15 pounds will drop off before you know it and you aren’t focused on the actual number.

Another favorite example of a similar vibe is the Year of Less. The concept is to have less weight, less debt, less stress, less stuff taking up space in your house, etc… That isn’t a single resolution at all. It’s a mindset and giving yourself a full year to take it down.

Other examples include:

  • Year of Progress
  • Year of Adulting
  • Year of Order
  • Year of New
  • Year of Adventure

My Yearly Theme History

Two years ago I set up the Year of Foundation. I wanted to get very specific things finally in place to serve as something to build on the following year. I finally went to see a doctor for the first time in years. Went and got an eye exam, established a regular date night with my wife, lower screen time, regular physical activity.

2020 was set up as the Year of Focus. I wanted to ensure I could put my mind and physical energy into the right places. It certainly built on the Year of Foundation which helped me show where my focus needed to be. This included subsections for my wife, my two kids, me, my career, my home and learning something new. Didn’t matter what that new thing was, but it was just trying to expand myself a bit. I’d spend each day this year making sure I was putting my focus toward as many of those items as possible. If I noticed I was ignoring one section, I’d course correct the following day/week.

Getting Started with a Yearly Theme

I feel it’s important to really develop what you want the yearly theme to be. Write out some concepts or where you’d like to be 12 months from now. See if something starts to spark your mind.

Along with visiting, listening to a past episode of Cortex is helpful too:

While not required, having a way to document and track your progress is very helpful. A simple notebook can work, something like the app DayOne works, or, the actual Theme System Journal is a great solution.

It’s All About Progress

The idea is steady progress over a long period of time. If you want to lose 15 pounds, you will have days when you weigh in and actually gain a pound or two. If you make steady progress into being active, making small changes, you will see changes happen. You know you have time so you can take advantage of that.

You also might surprise yourself. If the theme was around health, and you’d love to lose weight, you might also enter your first 5k or join a local run club and find an entirely new support network. That wasn’t the goal, but it certainly was beneficial.

A large part of the 168 System is the concept that you have time. For a yearly theme, you have 365 days. You have a lot of time. Plant that flag and take it one day at a time.

Zach Parcell

Zach is a 35-year-old midwestern husband, father, son, gummy bear loving, digital communication professional. Zach has spent endless hours researching lifehacks, strategies, resources, tools, examples, and more in order to be a better person in the office and at home.

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