New Year Resolutions and Minimalism

It’s that time of year, time to set ambitious goals for 2021 right? It’s time to stretch yourself, especially after the year that 2020 has been. Well, this is up-to-you if you so choose.

Minimalism may be something that you have been considering for 2021. Are there minimalism principles that you’d like to adopt and that you see in your life? You probably thought this article was going to tell you how you can become a minimalist in January 2021. Followed by a list of a top X number of tips you could do to achieve that.

Sorry to disappoint, but I’m going to propose a different approach to new year resolutions.

Metrics & Data

Today’s society is obsessed with metrics. Humanity is constantly looking to identify whether there is failure or success. You could argue that metrics are important, and I don’t disagree. Having worked at large tech companies, the importance of metrics is paramount. Measure everything! No decisions permitted if you don’t have data to back up that hypothesis. We obsess over the need for data.

But, is this harmful? Do you continually set new years resolutions with ambitious stretch-metrics? Do you allow yourself flexibility by setting specific goals? Are you setting targets or using data for the right reason?

Are you setting yourself up for disappointment/harsh judgemental feelings by measuring everything?


I will run a sub-3 hour marathon in 2021

What happens if your training data is trending in the direction of failure?

There is likely going to be an impact on you, especially as you process and deal with that information. Will it lead to judgemental feelings? Will it lead to you giving up? Will you end up with new year resolution failure to add to the list? I’ve been here (many times!)!

Where to start?

Self Reflection

First of all, perhaps a good place to start, is reviewing 2020. I say perhaps, as 2020 has been a very difficult year for everyone. Have you already made changes to your lifestyle? Did you consciously make changes, or did they happen by chance? Did you notice an impact with these changes? Did you learn anything from these changes? What do you want to stop doing? What doesn’t align with who you are?

What have you consciously or unconsciously actioned, achieved or “failed” in 2020?

  • Have you been more mindful with your purchases?
  • Have you paid off or made progress with your debts?
  • Have you nurtured relationships (virtually!)?
  • Have you spent more time on yourself?

By asking similar questions, you’re priming your mind for the next question.

Define who you are

Ask yourself “Who am I”? or “Who am I going to be?".

Make this question about you. Don’t follow the traditional path of reeling out many goals you think you want to achieve. Ensure you’re thinking for yourself, not what others expect of you. New year resolutions often fail because we’re not intrinsically motivated to complete them.

Note: You may already know the answer to “Who am I”. If that’s the case, don’t change it for the sake of a new year.

Typical goals

“I’m going to run a marathon in 2021”. It’s impressive for anyone to complete a marathon. You can sound ambitious by telling everyone you know: “Hey, I’m going to run a marathon this year”. You can bask in the imaginary glory of completing one.

But, what happens when you wake up on that cold January morning and the seed of doubt is growing in your mind? Oh, do I have the right warm clothing for this? Oh, I’ll not go out this morning, but I will tomorrow as it’s going to be a few degrees warmer…

By focussing on a goal, a want, a future based on imaginary glory - you’ve likely set yourself up for failure.

If you focus on yourself, you can understand or construct who you are going to be. You can then map this to actions/decisions you take.

But how?

This is hard. Do you know who you are? Who you’re going to be? How do I find out? Consider the following:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What is my purpose?
  • What is meaningful to you?
  • What is important to you (Relationships? Personal growth? Learning? Being fit and healthy at 80+? Do you like to create things? Do you like to solve things?)?
  • Get to know yourself - have you considered therapy?

So, let’s look at an Example:

“I create and grow”

Let’s break this down:

  • I build things (e.g. programming).
  • I make mindful, sustainable choices.
  • I nurture and expand relationships.

Note: These are not goals, they’re attributes of someone who defines themself as “I create and grow”.

What are some topics/focuses to consider?

You could perhaps map your who you’re going to be or “who I am” into some focus areas. For example:

“I am mindful and I pursue passions”:

  • Finances > budget
  • Sustainability > grow vegetables
  • Growth > pursue horticulture skills
  • Relationships > repair and nurture meaningful relationships

Here’s a collection of items for inspiration. Remember though, it needs to be important to you. Don’t shoehorn these into your life because you think they should be there!

  • Health
  • Fitness
  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Passions
  • Finances
  • Sustainability
  • Giving back
  • Ethics
  • Growth & learning
  • Simplification
  • Adventure

Perhaps find some more ideas at

How does this relate to Minimalism?

To me, minimalism is whatever you want it to be. There isn’t a specific checklist, “To be a minimalist, I have to do X”.

I agree some practices conform to general minimalism e.g. living clutter-free. Yet, you can define what makes you a minimalist or what minimalism means to you.

This article is about defining who you are / who you’re going to be and to me, this is at the very core of minimalism. Refocus away from arbitrary, data focussed new year resolutions and prioritise yourself.


Did you find this article interesting? What are your thoughts for 2021? Ping me your feedback