The Great January Do-Over

2021 goals (re)start now

The Great January  Do-Over

For a lot of us, January felt not like the start of a new year, but the continuation of 2020’s nonsense. There’s no need to revisit everything that happened, but suffice it to say that a lot of our best-laid plans were thrown for a loop. But as know-it-alls like to say at the end of every December, time is a human creation. It’s our own arbitrariness that makes January 1 any different from December 31. These people are annoying, but they’re right—and, extending that logic, who says we can’t redo January in February, or any other time of the year? Why not take a do-over? Here are a few suggestions to make the most of it.

1. Reorient.

The upside of shared hardship is that it makes people more understanding. For example, many well-meaning people abandoned their Dry January plans the first week of the month, and who could blame them? So many people experienced the same slips, which means no one’s judging if you need to give it another shot. Therapist Barton Goldsmith puts it well in Psychology Today: You move through life the same way you climb stairs. “You go up a step or two, and then you level off and you may go down a step, but you are still higher than you were.” Progress is seldom linear, so take a moment to reorient yourself and what you hope to get out of the year.

The Great January  Do-Over

2. Scale down.

At the end of last year, it was easy to be unenthusiastic about setting goals or making resolutions, thanks to 2020’s arduousness and the general instability that remained. In an article from last December, The New York Times suggested “downsizing” 2021 resolutions, particularly picking “bite-sized goals that are actually achievable.” Maxie McCoy, author of You’re Not Lost: An Inspired Action Plan for Finding Your Own Way, notes, “Small steps are way better than misguided big ones.” In her book, she suggests making a list of things that energized you in the past year or so, then asking yourself a simple question: “What’s the absolute smallest thing I can do right now to feel more of this?” Make the stakes low so you get that dopamine hit of accomplishment, then build from there.

The Great January  Do-Over

3. Identify challenges.

Like, say, a global pandemic? Well, yes, but there’s other stuff too. While it may seem defeatist to list the things preventing you from accomplishing a goal, you can’t beat what you don’t understand. Lifehack founder Leon Ho suggests writing these obstacles down, then brainstorming three possible solutions for each. “Once you see that each problem has an answer, you’ll begin to put your mind at ease and get comfortable with change,” he notes.

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