Resolutions Reframed: Practice or Project?

I can’t stop thinking about resolutions, plans, goals, and purpose. Both the fact that many of my recent plans have not happened and the fact that winter and the new year is here are working on me.

New Years Resolutions don’t work or don’t make sense for many. I think this is because often either there are unrealistic expectations, or even needs, for change, and also because maybe we don’t know why we are doing, and it isn’t clear. We can’t dramatically change ourselves, at least most of us in a day, or even a month, and I think it is important to keep things realistic, and in the context of real life.

If you need more out of new year’s resolutions and goal setting, try this.

A key question for me is am I working on developing a practice or a project? And always think a little about why, either one, but that is another post.

A practice is something many people do for the sake of the practice and deepening it, and it could be anything from walking, music or other art, writing, breathwork, or mindfulness — some of my practices, and there isn’t a goal or “success”, or measurement of progress in the same sense of working to achieve something. The success is in the doing.

A project is something that is an outcome and has an endpoint so it can be clearly measured. It can be anything to achieve, including practices, more purposeful goals, or subtler focused outcomes, but it does have an outcome. For example, in my writing practice, I may be working on a project of a novel or a goal of 50,000 words within a month.

Contrast the writing project with a writing practice, where I may write as early in the day as possible to clear the mind and set intentions or freewrite, or may write in other forms, still desiring consistency or some kind of “progress” but it is more about the act and intention than anything more.

Other examples could be that I am doing fitness for mental health as a practice, which leaves open lots of options for what I can do to get my heart rate up, compared to working toward something more as a goal or project, such as completing a yoga class, or being able to run for 20 minutes a day, which is not more or less valuable than focusing on a practice.

There is a whole conversation about what to choose, what to focus on, and what sized habit to choose when you’re working through something whether initiated internally or seemingly by other forces. It is important to get some help with that if you can but any effort and intention will go a long way to holding space for yourself and contributing to the world.

So choose, practice, or project.

Get to know about why or the purpose, how or what values, principles, and what, or what it is you are doing, and from there the more granular actions will come. The entire act of working on your practice or project, as well as tracking it will change.

Tips for working on practices or projects. 

  • Write down the outcome, or if there is a daily focus, at a minimum, if you don’t have another practice for working through personal projects, like Getting Things Done and the Natural Planning Model.
    • You can put this on a post-it where you will see it, or a project list, or a white board.
  • Share it with someone, whether it is a friend, coach, yoga buddy, coworker, running group, or the internet.
  • Plan and put it on your calendar.
    • Think about when and how much, and schedule what you can for the next week or month. Set a timer. Make an appointment.
  • Set up a document or install app to track it, depending on your tracking desires such as project actions or practice consistency.
    • You can use a spreadsheet, or different apps, like if you don’t already have a way you like. Put a sticker on your whiteboard when you make your progress if nothing else!
  • Reflect on about how it is going and adjust activities and time.
    • You can schedule this in too, as part of your regular time, and or add some special time each week or near the end of the month.
  • Notice how you feel having done each of these things, and celebrate or feel something good.


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