Short-Term Resolutions Can Create New and Better Habits


I take a CrossFit class almost every morning. The workouts are often quite intense, but they are usually short. When faced with a movement I don’t like—like “Wallballs” or the “Assault Bike”—I remind myself that I can do anything for 15 minutes. I find my resolve because the ask is limited. I’m able to manage my discomfort because it is of a manageable duration.

On August 1, 2021, I started the day journaling, and on a whim, I decided to make some resolutions for the month. Just the month.

I had begun to realize that my phone-scrolling habit was eating up hours of my life—hours I could be spending doing something more worthwhile. My resolutions included the following:

  • No more New York Times Crossword Puzzle or Spelling Bee
  • No more phone-scrolling in bed
  • At least 10 minutes/day meditating

It was surprisingly hard to give up my New York Times puzzle habit, not pick up my phone in bed, and to truly commit to a meditation practice, but I was successful. In September, I made resolutions again—keeping the previous month’s resolutions and adding a couple more. I did the same in October and November. I realized that within reason I could maintain my commitments… for a month anyway.

What a revelation! I’d persistently failed to maintain my New Year’s resolutions, but more bite-sized resolutions actually worked. I’d found the sweet spot.

I’m fortunate that my profession provides me with daily meaning and purpose because I do work that satisfies my desire to help build a more just, sustainable, and peaceful future. Still, it’s not enough. I want to live more fully and gratefully, give more generously, love more deeply and freely, and learn more every day. I also want to do less harm through my everyday choices and cause less suffering to other people and animals. Now that I have created new and better habits through my monthly resolutions and have freed up time that I’d previously spent on my phone, when December comes it will be time to stretch.

Here are some things I’m planning to commit to:

  • Stop complaining
  • Give something to at least one person each day

These two resolutions will be challenging. I may need to take them in weekly, rather than monthly installments. It’s possible I will need to make just a daily commitment, as in: “Today I will not complain.”

What about you? What habits are you ready to question and change? Is your diet humane to yourself, other people, and animals? Is it as sustainable as it could be? What about your product and clothing choices? Are you cognizant of their impacts on others? Could a resolution include learning about your personal impacts and making choices more aligned with your values?

What about your participation as a citizen? How successful are you at contributing to your community, nation, or world? Do you strive to be solutionary in your thinking and actions to build healthier systems that help everyone thrive?

Might you adopt Meatless Monday to cause less animal suffering and environmental destruction? What about purchasing cruelty-free products and those from companies that are committed to fair-labor practices?

Could you forego a purchase that isn’t really that important to you and donate the money you save to help someone else or support a nonprofit dedicated to creating a change you believe in?

Could you limit your time on social media and use that time to learn more about an issue that matters to you, and then act upon what you’ve learned?

Perhaps you give tirelessly of yourself already. Maybe you might want to shift what you do during “downtime” to take up a hobby that brings you joy?

The new year is approaching, but instead of fretting about a resolution that you’re unlikely to keep, maybe you’ll want to give the I-can-do-anything-for-one-month approach a try and slowly but surely build habits that are worthy of your precious life, one month at a time.