I love making lists. The act of writing all my thoughts down and having them organized with clear bullet points into my favorite notebook gives me a false sense of control.
Look at all the things I’m going to accomplish! Look at all the ways in which I’ll improve!
What I usually hate is having to actually stick to the lists. Unrealistic goals and expectations add pressure to an already busy life, and resolutions made in January inevitably become a chore by February.
As it turns out, asking myself to read a book or two a month takes the joy out of reading for me. The same goes for vague promises I make myself to “explore my city more” or “save more money.” So I decided to stop making traditional New Year’s resolutions years ago. Instead, I began focusing on gratitude, downloading the app Grateful for daily use and logging more long-term appreciation in a journal. And when I replaced goal setting with gratitude seeking, I began to feel a lot more at peace, approaching myself with acceptance first and aspirations second.
For a few years now, instead of writing resolutions at the close of each year, I make two lists: “What 2019 Brought Me That I’ll Leave in 2019” and “What 2019 Brought Me That I Want in 2020.” This shifts the focus from what I haven’t accomplished or what hasn’t yet happened for me to what I’ve already done. By taking stock of a full year, I’m able to better notice and appreciate my own progress and then hone in on my strengths to amplify them further.
For a few years now, instead of writing resolutions at the close of each year, I make two lists: “What 2019 Brought Me That I’ll Leave in 2019” and “What 2019 Brought Me That I Want in 2020.” This shifts the focus from what I haven’t accomplished or what hasn’t yet happened for me to what I’ve already done.
This practice helps me find peace with what is; rather than setting unrealistic expectations for myself, I focus on things as they already are and use them to consider what I want going forward.
When I first began the practice, I was a recent college graduate. I’d found a few months of work immediately after finishing my education, but by the time the holidays rolled around, I found myself with more free time and uncertainty than ever before. In mid-December, I was sitting at a train station in Spain, trying to enjoy a solo vacation but really thinking about all the things I wanted that felt so out of reach: a job, the ability to move out of my parents’ home and into my own apartment, and other forms of personal growth. While some things felt more attainable than others, I knew it wouldn’t be fair to simply make a list of resolutions for myself. I’d already been working hard at applying to jobs and knew that things would work out when the time was right. So I decided to focus instead on how I’d be kinder to myself and alleviate some of the pressure I was feeling.
To some extent, whether or not I found a full-time, well-paying (or even decently-paying) job was out of my control. But fearing rejection from jobs that felt out of my reach? I could conquer that by applying anyway and giving applications my all.
In making those two first lists, I focused on what 2017 brought me, both good and bad (and everything in between), and once I took stock of what I had, I decided what I wanted to keep. Learning to practice gratitude, worthiness, and vulnerability? Keep. New friendships? Keep. A growing love for good beer, a stronger relationship with my brother, opportunities for travel? More, please. Settling, anticipating the worst, fearmongering, imposter syndrome? Adios, motherf*cker.
Once I took stock of what I had, I decided what I wanted to keep. Learning to practice gratitude, worthiness, and vulnerability? Keep. New friendships? Keep. A growing love for good beer, a stronger relationship with my brother, opportunities for travel? More, please.
I made the same lists last year, focusing on what 2018 had given me, and I was surprised at how much I’d grown—the things I’d wanted to keep in the year prior that I had managed to retain, along with the goals I was still working on but had nevertheless improved upon. I was still working on finding better career opportunities but had no doubt made progress. I was still trying to move past self-doubt and past undermining my own abilities and potential, but I’d grown stronger and was sure of it. The proof was in the pudding, if the pudding were the list titled “Things 2018 Gave Me That I’ll Be Carrying Into 2019”: more bylines, stronger cooking skills, healthier boundaries, a bigger community in a new city. And rather than berating myself for what I had yet to accomplish, making a “Things to Let Go of in 2018” list allowed me to acknowledge to myself what I’d already overcome, what I’d spent the past year building toward.
My lists for this year are still in the early stages. As it turns out, when you practice (and keep practicing) self-acceptance, there becomes less you want to change about yourself, less you want to let go of in the new year. And as for what I want to carry into 2020, I’m chasing my joy—-more writing assignments that help me grow, more artwork I make for myself alone, and more food cooked at home with friends.
What do you want to take with you into your 2020? What do you want to leave behind?
Virali Dave is a writer in Los Angeles. Born in Mumbai, she has always considered the west coast to be the best coast. She can be found chronicling encounters with burritos on Instagram @virali and on Twitter @viralidave.
BY Virali Dave - December 26, 2019
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.