In place of resolutions

New Year's Day is a great time to start anew. It is a great chance to improve our lives and start new habits. The problem with resolutions is that to some they seem overwhelming.  One little slip and often we feel that we have failed.

It is possible to initiate great change without resolutions.  Instead of great goals or lofty plans, why not put some productive procedures in place - daily routines that are known to produce desired results? Instead of a resolution to lose 25 pounds, why not commit to eating healthier and going to the gym on a regular basis?  Research your diet, keep healthy eating in mind, go to the gym regularly, and you will lose will lose weight.  Do these things until they become habit. Your life will change.

Although goals can be inspiring, they can be limiting as well.  This quote from Leo Babauta explains it well:

" have to open your mind to going places you never expected to go.  If you live without goals, you’ll explore new territory. You’ll learn some unexpected things. You’ll end up in surprising places. That’s the beauty of this philosophy..."  ~Leo Babauta.  (Read the entire post here on Zenhabits.)

Below are examples of routines that I have put into my life.  They have worked well for me.

Morning routine:
1.  Five minutes of silent meditation and contemplation.
2.  Read something positive - The Optimist Manifesto, The Happiness Pledge.
3.  Write out a list of things that I am grateful for.
4.  15 minutes of meditation designed to clarify my intentions for the day.
5.  Three mornings a week I go to the gym.  On the days that I do not work out, I read something inspiring.

1.  Consciously perform at least three acts of kindness.
2.  Be mindful of my diet and eat healthy foods. No processed foods except for rare occasions.  Simply eliminating fast food and prepared foods goes a long way towards eliminating unhealthy chemicals, additives, and excess calories.
3.  Spend a few minutes of time towards spirituality.  This is in addition to my morning routine.  It varies - sometimes I read something spiritual and ponder it, sometimes I just clear my head and try to see the beauty in the Universe.
4.  Dedicate time to building stronger relationships.  At work, at home, or long distance - I try to remember to stay connected and bring deeper meaning to my relationships.

These are just examples.  I have found that by following these routines my life expands every day.  It allows me to focus on doing the right thing without attachment to outcome.  I do have goals, but what matters most is that my life is constantly improving and I am constantly developing.  In place of lofty resolutions try implementing a few good practices into your life.  You'll be surprised at the results.

Watch this video where Leo debates his philosophy with Tim Ferris.

Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta on Goals from Leo Babauta on Vimeo.

Since so many people are concerned with their health at the beginning of the year, I'd like to link to a book that will revolutionize your views on a healthy diet.  I'm warning you it is NOTHING like the food pyramid. I've been on this diet for a while and have lost weight, blood pressure is down, and cholesterol numbers are down as well.

ZenPresence - Ideas for meaningful living.


  1. Your right Dan some resolutions can sound down right punitive. But I do like the new year as a time to reflect on my goals and re adjust my focus. I love the Happiness Pledge. Thank you.

    1. Yep, Ken has great advice. The Happiness Pledge is exceptional.

  2. Fantastic - thanks for this!

  3. Hey Dan, love what you're doing here! Just watched the Leo/Tim debate and enjoyed that discussion as well. Seems like they agree more than disagree, almost using different language (goals or no goals) to say the same thing.

    I think creating morning routines is such a great way to pursue personal growth because it paradoxically frees us from having to remember everything. Normally structuring something into a life isn't the definition of freeing. But by making parts of life habitual, it allows us to do what's good for us without having to go through the internal debate process each and every time to figure out whether we should actually do it. Then we are free to focus our minds on other things, bigger things. I don't list the pros and cons each time I wake up to decide whether or not to get up or go back to sleep because that decision was already made and now routinized into habit, for instance.

    So bottom line is that I'm impressed with your daily routine. And I'm honored to have the Happiness Pledge a part of that routine.

    1. I'm honored to have you stop by Ken. Thank you for all of the great ideas.


  4. So important to have morning routines that help start the day in a positive way. Eating well is such a big part of feeling well. I have been getting into cooking lately and can't wait to try some healthier recipes.

  5. I watched the Leo/Tim video last week, hoping there would be more disagreement but, as Ken pointed out, they more or less agreed.

    Dan, I completely agree with your approach. As someone who ardently followed the "rules" for setting and reviewing goals, for years I consistently came up short (or, in many cases, went nowhere near them). Following all those rules always seemed to make the process more difficult.

    Live the way you want to live and feel the way you want to feel each day. Simply decide to do that. Nothing outside of you has to happen to allow that. No thing or event will make you happy. We can all decide to be happy at any moment, regardless of what's going on around us.

    I, too, love your morning routine. It's what mine used to look like before having kids. Now I hit the ground running earlier than I would like. It took some adjustment but now I do these things after they go to bed.

    Maybe it's just the circles I travel in but it seems that the old ideas about goals have finally run their course - thankfully. Thank you for contributing to our global message that life should be happier each day.

  6. I agree with you about the fact we're better to build new habits than we are to set goals, and that I'd probably do a 100 marvellous things if I didn't have goals, but there's something that feels so good about that fixed end-point. It's the difference for me between going for a run and doing a marathon. When I went for a run, I did as Leo said, and that was great. But it was also great to take part in a marathon and to see that finish line coming up. I'd always have stopped at that 21-mile wall and never pushed through.

    I like that you try to make your abstract routines into something tangible; that to me is the most important part of the process - to know what this abstract thing of 'to eat more healthily' looks like. I think I'm with Tim mostly, although without a doubt, the best moments of my year have been those that have gone 'off-script'. It is nice to look back and see how far you've come. It shows me how much I've done.

    I think you have to be a very disciplined zen practitioner to live as Leo says, much as I agree with him.

  7. A goal is a destination, and that can be helpful, if you don't put all your focus on it. People are way too focused on the end point, rather than the journey, which is more important, where all the growth occurs. We have some goals, such as living aboard full time someday, and that does provide meaning and focus. But it has also held me back, in some ways, when I have become too fixated on that goal and missed out on opportunities in the here-and-now.

    I love your routines--thanks for sharing those. My morning quiet time is important--it throws off my whole day if I oversleep and miss it.

  8. Big goals can often create too much fear or just dishearten us so we fail before we start. Taking small steps in a positive direction is often more helpful.
    Have a great 2013 Dan.