Happy New Year!
I first learned the term “New Year’s Aspirations” at a Plum Village retreat called “The Gift of a Quiet Mind” as we turned the calendar from 2021 to 2022.
I had always been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions but the resolutions of the past few years had left me feeling bitter and resentful (as I expect many people felt in the last couple years). Many people I spoke with had given up on resolutions altogether and were opting for other things like word of the year, or a general spirit to cultivate.
So where do New Year’s Aspirations fit in with all of this? What makes them unique? And how should you go about setting one? Let’s take a look.
The roots of the word aspiration are indeed fascinating. It can mean:
-the process of drawing breath
-hope or ambition of achieving something
This strikes me much like manifesting something. You are drawing in a breath, drawing in air, and pulling whatever goal you’re hoping to manifest toward you.
New Year’s Resolutions have been set for thousands of years (traced back to ancient Babylon). But the etymology of the word is interesting.
Upon first glance, a “resolution” sounds a little harsh. It is as if you have a problem with your life that needs to be “resolved” in the next calendar year.
But this is not the way I see it. Resolution has roots from “resolve” and “resolute”, which actually means to loosen, to release, to set free.
Either way you look at it, a “resolution” in today’s world has become a more structured goal which should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive (SMART goals).
Planning out Your New Year’s Resolutions
So What is the Definition of New Year’s Aspirations?
What is a New Year’s Aspiration?
A new year’s aspiration is a goal you can set that you hold gently. It may be a trait you wish to develop, such as kindness or compassion, or a feeling you want to cultivate, like love. A New Year’s Aspiration is a great way to set a goal without the pressure or structure of a more rigid resolution.
New Year’s aspirations are all about the journey rather than the destination. Resolutions might be more geared toward crossing that finish line, aspirations are meant to be a goal during each moment.
The Difference Between New Year’s Resolutions and New Year’s Aspirations
Both resolutions and aspirations are types of new year’s goals, but what is the difference between them?
Choose a New Year’s Resolution when you have a more concrete goal. For example, if you would like to lose weight, it’s helpful to specify how much and what time frame you’re hoping to lose the weight by. Or perhaps if you’re hoping to achieve something big, like finishing a degree program. These are more fitting for new year resolutions.
However, if what you seek is perhaps a little less quantifiable or measurable, then you might set an aspiration. For example, if you’re hoping to be kinder or more compassionate in the new year, this might be considered an aspiration.
How to Set New Year’s Aspirations for Yourself
Part 1: Choosing a New Year’s Aspiration
1) Reflect on the past year
When we want to know where we’re going, we need to consider where we’ve been.
Think about this past year and write in your journal some ideas about what worked. What didn’t work? What were you proud of in your life this past year? Do you have any regrets or resentments?
New Year’s aspirations should come from these feelings of pride, love, joy, excitement, bliss, and pleasure and try to release or let go of any of those negative feelings you experienced.
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2) Think about new ideas and concepts you would like in your life
What new things would you like incorporate into your life? Perhaps you’d like to learn an instrument or want to go hiking.
My husband started crocheting during the pandemic as an indoor hobby, and he’s just completed his first sweater for me!
Getting outside of the box can help you refresh your life!
3) Get Out of Your Thinking Brain
It’s all fine to “think” about these things, but it’s also helpful to examine our deepest feelings. When do you feel the most happy and satisfied? When do you feel the worst?
Setting an aspiration to allow those joyful feelings and experiences to blossom will serve your life for years to come.
In addition, take those reflections and new ideas you’ve thought about and let them sit with you. How would feel if those new things happened in your life?
4) Come back to it after a few days
Let these thoughts and feelings sit for a little while. Allow anything to come up, like worries or desires.
Once you’ve let everything stew, find the one or two aspirations that feel the most authentic and would enhance your life the most.
Part 2: Setting Yourself Up for Success
5) Think about what you need in your life to make your aspiration a reality
Once you’ve picked one or two aspirations, it’s time to make sure it works for you!
Think about the ways that your life’s structure is set up. Does this set you for success? Or is the structure of your life going to make your new aspiration difficult?
For example, if you aspiration is to cultivate stillness and compassion, but part of your routine consists of binge-streaming Real Housewives in the evening every day, then that habit may inhibit your aspiration due to the nature of the drama in the show.
6) Implement new structures in your life
Set up some new structures in your life that will HELP these aspirations.
If you’ve chosen to embrace courage in your life, then perhaps some power poses every morning will serve you well.
If it’s your aspiration to volunteer more, then before the New Year gets here, make sure you have a list of places that you’d like to volunteer, plus their phone numbers and addresses ready to go!
7) Get your mindset ready
It’s important to clear space in your life for you new goal, but it’s also important to clear space in your mind.
You could set aside time to journal or reflect on you aspirations and the progress you’re seeing. You could also choose some affirmations to write every day that match yours aspirations.
Meditation is another way to clear the clutter in your mind to help yourself focus on what’s really important.
8) Let go
One you’ve got some ideas for how to make space for these aspirations in your life and in your mind, let go of your expectations. Aspirations shouldn’t come with SMART goals or lofty sights.
One aspect of aspirations is that they’re not meant to be held too tightly. So give yourself some space and room to breathe.
9) Focus on the journey, not the destination
If you aspire to volunteer more, but you found the first few weeks in January to be too busy, don’t just give up on your aspiration! Remember, aspirations are about the journey, not the destination!
So once you finally make it out to the animal shelter for thirty minutes to walk a dog, you’ve already been successful at your aspiration! The key is, when there is space in your life, to keep going. Make it a part of your weekly or monthly routine.
And when things get busy or get tough, take some space and get back to it when you can.
Life doesn’t have to be all or nothing!
30 Sample New Year’s Aspirations
Sample New Year’s Aspirations for Positive Character Traits
- I aspire to cultivate compassion and kindness this year.
- I want to develop my courage this year.
- I want to stand up for myself when I feel my voice is not being heard.
- I want to support other women and be less judgmental.
- I want to actively listen when others talk to me.
Sample Aspirations for Cultivating a Feeling
- I want more joy in my life this year.
- I want more spontaneity in my life this year.
- I aspire to be more giving of my time and money.
- I want to incorporate more stillness and quiet time into my life.
- I aspire for more adventure this year.
Sample New Year’s Aspirations for Spirituality
- I want to meditate regularly this year.
- I aspire to learn about Buddhism.
- I want to practice tarot and develop my intuition.
- I want to attend church regularly.
- I want to journal regularly to get to know myself better.
Sample Aspirations for Your Community
- I aspire to donate to important organizations throughout the year.
- I want to volunteer my time at community events this year.
- I want to learn more about the different cultures in my city.
- I want to vote during all elections this year.
- I aspire to use public transportation when possible.
Sample New Year’s Aspirations to Inspire Your Dreams
- I want to make choices this year that align with where I want my life to be in ten years.
- I want to go back to college.
- I aspire to get certified to be a health coach.
- I want to take big steps toward finishing writing my book this year.
- I aspire to prepare my life for a baby.
Sample New Year’s Aspirations for Your Health
- I aspire to go vegetarian.
- I want to focus on moving my body in different ways.
- I hope to gain muscle and be stronger this year.
- I want to get plenty of sunshine during the summer months.
- I want to spend time in nature for my mental health.
Aspirations are a great way to give yourself a goal without the pressure (or pending disappointment) of a more traditional New Year’s Resolution.
Hold them gently and give yourself space to allow your New Year’s Aspiration some room to breathe (aspire).
Allow yourself to focus on the journey this next year! There’s no wrong way to set aspirations for things you would like to add or remove from your life!
Are you setting a New Year’s Aspiration this year?
Tell us what it is in the comments below!