New Year’s Revolutions

“I want to make a New Year’s revolution,” Thalia announced from across her Grandma’s dinner table last night.

“I am going to try more new foods.  And I am going to clean the walls and be helpful. And I am going to try not quitting.”

“That’s amazing!” I told her. “All good resolutions! But those are resolutions. A resolution is a promise. A revolution is when you make a very big change.”

She considered the difference, and nodded with comprehension. “Like Jamie Oliver.”

“Yes, like Jamie Oliver.”

This morning as I replayed the conversation in my head, I realized that Thalia was actually onto something. There is a reason that New Year’s resolutions rarely work for me, and why I’m so reluctant to make them; they’re often revolutions. They’re these gargantuan, major promises that completely ignore the essence of who I am and who I’m capable of becoming over a short period of time.

Exercise every day. Start taking vitamins. Cut out white flour. Lose 15 pounds. Use our museum memberships more. Get out with the kids, even on rainy days. Send thank you notes for every gift. Plan birthday parties in advance. Give Nate more of my time. Don’t talk with my mouth full. Hang up the coats. Get to the dentist. Organize my email. Be a better RSVP-er. Order in less, cook more. 

Individually each of those things sound admirable. Easy, even. But together? They paint a picture of a person I’m not. I am never going to do all of those things, at least not all at once. And let’s be honest–once you start cheating on one, it sort of gives you permission to cheat on the rest.

I’ve been really inspired by Gwen Bell’s #REVERB10 initiative about using reflection to manifest what’s next in your life, and by Gretchen Rubin’s post at The Happiness Project about choosing one word to set the tone for the new year. The one word that stands out to me is:


I don’t have it. I want it. I need it. My family needs it. And it’s probably a big elusive daydream, a future unmet resolution.

Because I think balance, particularly for mothers, is a myth. I have owned Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much since I was just a few years out of college, and I am by most accounts, a workaholic. I can’t do nothing. I have more ideas than time to implement them. I have many things that make me happy and want to give none of them up.

And so balance might not be something I can achieve. I admit it. Balance is, for me, a revolution.

So instead I’m tweaking the assignment a little here, and I’m choosing two words to set the tone for the new year.


That, I think that I can achieve. Little by little.

In 2011, I can read more books. I can unplug a little at a time. I can trade in a TV show for a cuddle on the couch with Nate. Even if I can’t keep the whole house clean, I can make my bed every morning. Or at least some mornings. (Let’s start small?) I can turn off the phone until the kids go to bed. I can keep cookies out of the house. I can send my thank you notes online. I can say no more often, and learn to feel less guilty about it.

Small changes can add up to big change, that I know. But I’m willing not to think beyond the small changes for now. It’s as much as I can handle.

Do you have one word that you want to define you in the new year? Would you call it a revolution or a resolution?

[photo: e.m.papers]


40 thoughts on “New Year’s Revolutions”

  1. I was just thinking about “balance” this morning. The things that I want to change about myself are just a symptom of my life being out of balance. So if we can achieve more balance maybe we will have less we want to change about ourselves. Just an idea;)

  2. I LOVE this. I am quietly entering the New Year, resolving to have more balance and less revolutions. More acceptance that things rarely go according to my carefully made plans. Accepting of and laughing at the unexpected. Nice work Thalia!

  3. I don't think balance really exists. It is a myth. As a working married mom, you attention is being pulled at all the time in different directions. I think you do what's in front of you until the next thing comes up. Sometimes work has more of your attention while other times its kids, husband or just you time. If you can find something that feels like you have more balance, fantastic, but don't beat yourself up if you don't. You and your family are fine, just as you are. 🙂

  4. Also accidentally (incidentally?) a revolution is a complete circle. As in “spinning”. As in “spinning out of control”. Which is far too often the case in my life.

    In my mind, balance is just another word for a tightrope-walk, which is just induces stress.

    In 2011 I am trying to focus on the pace more than the outcome.

  5. I am with Imelda–my life is far more like tripping in different directions rather than a nice steady balance. We don't do balance in our family–it requires too much attention and sometimes you just want to watch Anthony Bourdain on the travel channel rather than write a thank you note.

  6. One of the major mistakes most folks make with resolutions is that they don't them specific or attainable. For example, when I made a commitment to exercise (in June of 2009, since I don't do New Year's resolutions formally, except in terms of my reading goals) I committed to working out for a minimum of 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Specific and attainable, although I found out I really need to work out 4 times a week to keep my sanity.

    I nodded knowingly about the museum memberships! When I buy one, I calculate the number of visits needed to at least get our money back, then I add an extra visit. 😉 Every time we make a visit, I make a hashmark on the pass itself and this ensures passes don't go wasted!

    Nice post! I am on the cusp of potentially getting a part-time job, working from home. A professional position that will require my hamster brain to get up to speed on topics I haven't thought about for over 5 years. I am using this next week to get our house in order and my mind on track with what is important to me.

    This post about balance has given me more to think about. Thank you.

  7. I chose “savor” and am trying to keep focused on it via Ali Edwards One Little Word class. Here's hoping I focus, slow down, and enjoy!

  8. I found myself weeding our front garden on New Year's Eve (we know how to party here!) and it struck me that making resolutions is a lot like weeding- the things you're trying to get rid of sometimes come back, but that doesn't mean that the act of pulling them out was a waste of time. It keeps them from getting too big, and sometimes you do manage to get something out from the roots, and eradicate it.

    I have a whole post on this brewing, but it will have to wait until the kids are back in day care!

  9. I think my word is STRIVE. I've hit several milestones and accomplished some good things in 2010, and with that, for me, came a bit of melancholy and complacency. So in order to move forward, change it up, keep growing (blah blah blah) I must remember to STRIVE. In everything – even if it's just a little bit of reaching every day.

  10. I don't have a problem with resolutions – as I don't see them as something that we can “fail” at – but then, I'm weird that way. I don't see them as promises that we break so much as goals that we have to keep striving for.
    It's an Aristotlean thing – knowing that we cannot achieve perfection in this lifetime does not absolve us of the obligation to strive toward it nonetheless.

    That said? I'm kinda liking the “one word” and “three words” meme that is all over my social networks this week.

    BALANCE was last year for me. This year? my word is DO.

  11. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like this New Year's is the anti-resolution year. It seems the general vibe is more reflective and less do, do, DO! It also seems many people have had a difficult 2010, or at least it was a hectic year for many, and the mood feels realistic and thoughtful. I definitely feel this way and if I were to pick, my word is gratitude. I don't really want to change anything much, but I want to look up from all the distractions and just soak up these moments with my daughter and husband and new baby due this summer and appreciate how incredibly fortunate we actually are. We've had a rough year financially and it's so easy to become disgruntled and stressed about all the little things we've had to give up. But like many hard times in my life, I'm seeing the gifts that come out of struggle. I want to remember that all year.

  12. You should read Ali Edwards One Little Word posts too Liz!

    My revolution for 2011 is Capture. There's so MANY things I could 'capture' for me and my family. I'm excited!

  13. I agree with the Kelli's comment that resolutions are often difficult because they're so vague as to be almost useless (my paraphrase). My 2011 resolution is to TURN OFF my cell phone in the car, and I think that's a really doable one that has potential lifesaving benefits.

    When I make mental promises to eat better and exercise more, well — better than what? One donut vs two? 3 days/week instead of one? That stuff is hard.

    But I'm liking your (and GRubin's) idea of a word, so mine shall be “patience” — it's in short supply in my world, and I will feel much better when I practice patience — with my family, with others and most importantly with myself.

    Happy New Year!

  14. Through the eyes of kids! Thanks Thalia. Like Lucy, I feel like I am quietly entering the new year. Accepting… having balance, embracing the messes, and not being such a control freak will all help me be a better me. and a better mom.

  15. Moderation.
    Its cousin is “balance.”
    I don't know anyone who worked more than I did last year. Doubling my '09 income was great but not worth the opportunity cost.

  16. My resolution is to be present with my children for this very short time we have together (while they still think I'm cool and want to be with me).

    ps: I love Thalia's revolutions!

  17. Thalia is one smart cookie.

    I've got some resolutions afoot, and they are more of an extension of what I'm already striving toward, rather than a full-scale revolution. What they'll require is DISCIPLINE.

    But it's discipline of the good variety – making a plan and sticking to it, rather than allowing myself to succumb to distractions.

  18. I don't have just one word, but rather a phrase that I want to live by this year: “I am lovely just the way that I am.”

    It's from a song I heard recently and for me it means I don't have to bend over backwards, killing myself to please anyone else. It doesn't mean that I can't make goals for myself and make changes for the better, just that I won't do it for anyone but me.

  19. I did most of the reverb posts, until the questions got repetitive and then I was impatient and cranky, so I stopped. Oops. BUT nevertheless, through all those writing prompts I came up with a phrase rather than a word: “bitch less, write more.” (Although a friend suggested that funny bitchy writing is always appropriate. I think maybe she missed the point). Embedded in BLWM, however, at least for me, is my word for 2011: compassion. It leads (I hope) to balance, patience, and all that other good stuff. At least until the next family monopoly game.

  20. I go back and forth about resolutions–on the one hand, the idea of creating a resolution always has this kind of downer feel to me–something you're resigned to do, but not exactly jumping for joy over. And like you, my resolutions have always been a bit too “revolution” like–resolving to basically become a completely different person overnight.

    I like the idea of creating small, totally manageable goals that help you work toward an overall improvement–like the ones you've listed. And I think it's nice to look at balance as sort of a concept or mantra to focus on. But I'm not sure balance is something you can really “achieve” and even if your life is in balance for a day or week the reality is it'll probably go back out of balance again–that's just the way a mom's life seems to go, right?

    I'm doing some goal-setting tonight and tomorrow but I don't think I'll make any big declarations or “revolutions” this year. I have found the harder I try to MAKE things happen the more I seem to get in my own way. Maybe for me, this will be the year of watching: to see what opportunities jump up in front of me, to really pay attention to the people around me, to choose consciously every new step I take.

  21. i also refused resolutioning this year. i'm about to become a mother of two, move abroad, look for a job in a new country, and a host of other MAJOR life changes. i need a nagging resolution like i need *insert cliche catch phrase here*

    i do like the idea of a word to set the tone for the year. perhaps i should go with SURVIVAL. i really think this next year could be the toughest of my adult life. as a recovering perfectionist, i will need to remind myself that good is good enough and if i survive this next year physically and emotionally intact, then i ought to be damn proud!

  22. I like creating possibilities for a new year. The best one ever was 2005: Unprecedented Results. I got a new job for a lot more money & got pregnant with Noah. For 2011, I created the possibility of being disciplined and having fun.

  23. I'm going to say that my word for 2011 is “prosperity”…because I started my own business last month and I don't have a lot of competition and if I put my heart into it, I think it could really take off this year. My secondary word would be “peace”….not in a big global sense, but more of a household sense. I can be “at peace” with my son's decision to have a mohawk. I can be “at peace” with my other son's unmatching wardrobe choices. Etc.

  24. I love this idea of one word for the year. Mine is breathe. I wrote on my blog…

    “It's the warm air coming off a calm ocean that makes me want to take a deep breath to take in all of the smells, sounds and texture it brings with it. It's what grounds me before heading out into the world. It's what will get me through all my beginnings and failings. I am going to follow my breath wherever it takes me. I am going to just breathe.”

  25. It's funny to me that you mentioned making your bed because that was one of my resolutions at the beginning of 2010. It worked for about a month. It's also “funny” that you mentioned your realization that some of the resolutions you've made in the past were not “you”. Well bed-making certainly isn't “me” – obviously – ha!

    This year my word is TIME. Trying to use it more wisely that mostly.

    Good luck with more balance… Here's to a fabulous 2011, occasional made beds and all… 😉

  26. Bless Thalia for this pearl! I've been thinking about this a lot and I am going to utter this word here while completing owning how dippy and Pollyanna it may sound.


    I need to celebrate. Celebrate my victories, the times I dust myself off after failing, the attempts that I make.

    I need to celebrate who I am, how I look and the parts of me that are essential to who I am—I have a very loud laugh, I will never titter. My feet are big, but I don't tip over.

    It is time to celebrate the messiness of being a mom who works outside of the home. Time to celebrate that I will not grow out of preferring to skip rather than walk.

    I fit.

    Celebrate fits for me this year and it will be revolution indeed as I choose jubilation over dissatisfaction.

    Maybe in 2012 I'll go for a touch more brevity.

  27. I am going with “Focus”; I first thought of “Let it Go” but decided “Focus” is the flip side of that. This year I will focus on launching my own business and leaving behind my soul crushing corporate job. With it, I'll “let go” of a sizable income…but that will allow me to Focus on time with family and finding fulfillment internally, finally pursuing a long-held dream.

  28. Man, these are all so so amazing. You're all inspiring me all over again. If I didn't need more BALANCE I could write 16 more posts out of all of your wise council and insightful ideas.

    @Tamara, you should read Kelli's post about Focus that she just published. Kindred spirits and all.

  29. Balance is good. Although, I am still striving to achieve it myself. I just posted about New Years and Resolutions this year. This morning I thought about the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
    Living one day at a time. Then I blogged about it.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love reading your blog!

  30. My word is “yes.” Somewhere along the line I started saying “no” to things without thinking. If I'm tired or stressed, nervous or aprehensive, it's all “no, no, no.” No going over to that friend's house because I'll probably want to go to sleep at 8PM, no trying that new recipe because it's expensive to buy the ingredients for something that may not work.

    “No” is easy and lonely. “Yes” is scary but makes for more stories. I'm going to try!

  31. My word is manage. I seem to always be behind in everything. And I'm not talking like a type-a personality routine schedule type manage, but I'm just so lazy and I never complete things that I start and I hate that about myself so my goal this year is to just manage my time better so that I can be more balanced, more patient, so that I can start revolutions.

  32. i think i need a revolution this year. 2010 was earth shattering for me – i got down sized in a nasty horrible way, then was offered several jobs, took one of them and am in the midst of a move across the country.

    but there are a couple of key things i want to change. one is physical – i need to lose a lot of weight. one is mental – i need to open up and let people in a lot more than i do now. (this is mostly a suspicion at this point – i'll give it a shot and see how that works for me.)

    and those things that i want to change will require, i think, a revolution. wish me luck.

  33. Love this post! One of my resolutions is to make my bed (also inspired by The Happiness Project) but I have yet to make it yet this year. In fact, I'm hapilly typing from my unmade bed right now.

    I am thinking of replacing my resolutions with the idea of evolutions, and just seeing if I can get a little closer to doing the four things I have outlined as goals (like eating better) without having to be totally perfect, or even good, about keeping them.

    Any way it goes I resolve/evolve/revolutionize to have a happy 2011! And hope everyone else does, too!

  34. New Year's resolutions are often giant recipes for disappointment. . hmm, much like actual New Year's eve. Good idea to go small. Oh, Julie Morgenstern's book SHED is good. It too involves picking a “theme.”

  35. One word is tough, but I'll pick Relentless. That is because I intend to be relentless in pursuit of the things that will give me the life I want to live.

  36. Wait, you have a museum membership?
    Crap. Another thing I forgot to put on my resolution list. My word for the year: EFFORT

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