On yearly themes

The one about how new years resolutions are bad and how you can do better for yourself

On yearly themes
Photo by Ana Cruz / Unsplash

Have you ever made a new year's resolution, only to abandon it days or weeks into the year? I sure have. Comparing the average number of people at the gym on the first weeks of January versus a bit later in the year, I'd say others have done so, too.

Maybe you're one of these people. Or maybe not. Perhaps you don't make such resolutions because you think they are stupid, or you don't want to subject yourself to facing the (inevitable?) failure.

But wait, I've learned about this at work. Let's make it S.M.A.R.T.! Then, surely, I can navigate the resolution! For example:

I will work out every week at least once in the next year

..but then on week four, I catch a cold (or worse), and can't go. I have failed to accomplish the goal I set out.

The problem with this is that once you fail to do what you set out to do, often times you just give up. Oh well, I'll get around to it next year.

Same energy of saying "I'll start studying at 7 pm", but then 7:01 comes and goes, and "Oh well, 8 pm it is".

The Theme System

New Years Resolutions are so last year

This is where The Theme System comes in. Let's look at mine from 2021:

Year of Health

First thing you'll notice, is that it's broad. It's not specific, at least not to corporate standards. But it's specific enough to help guide decisions and areas of focus.

Instead of spelling out all that I want to do and focus on, specifically, I just have a theme. A theme that helps me make decisions, that may (or may not) concern my health.

The real world is muddy and fuzzy, and there's never a clear cut distinction between two things with regards to their health benefits.

Sure, if the question is whether I should eat four bags of chips or a normal meal, then yes, but that's rarely the kind of decisions we make on a day-to-day basis (if it is for you, I'm really sorry).

The questions I faced were more on the level of:

  1. should I work out or play video games?
  2. should I be lazy and go to McDonald's (or order from them)?
  3. should we go drinking or hiking?

Writing them out, there's always an obvious answer, but if we really think about it - are they really that obvious?

Sometimes we want to take the easy route. Sometimes we are just dead tired. And it's okay to have fun.

The idea of the theme is that the overall direction, the trend of our progress is in line with what we envisioned for the year (or season, or month, or whatever).

So did it work?

Yes. Yes it worked

I even managed to apply it to both physical and mental health.

From the physical perspective, I have focused on eating more healthy foods than before, went to the gym 58 times (thanks, FitBod!), and had more outdoor activities (mostly hiking).

I wasn't the textbook description of health, mind you. My trips to fast food joints were in the double digits in the year, and I had my fair share of skipping leg days (or workout days, for that matter). But still, it was a better year for my health than the ones before it.

As for the mental aspect, I've taken steps to increase my mental hygiene, like removing myself from Facebook, lowering the number of unnecessary notifications I'm getting on my phone, and generally being more cognizant about how certain activities and sites/people are affecting me, mentally.

I'm happy that I stumbled upon The Theme System, and I'm always eager to suggest it to others if they're having some thoughts about their future.

If you'd like more information, check the Theme System's website, or this amazing video by CGP Grey (who's the co-creator of The Theme System, and also much better at explaining this than I am):

Next time you want to make a new years resolution - choose a theme instead. You'll probably thank yourself a year later.

Until next time 👋