What are you resolving?

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. Quitting smoking? That lasted a day. Exercising more? I made it a week. Resolving to cook at home more? I went out to dinner on Jan. 1.

Most people don’t even think about resolutions until Dec. 31. Suddenly, the urge to change your life becomes more real as the clock ticks toward midnight and you find yourself scrambling to make life-altering decisions on the fly. It’s no wonder we poke fun at resolutions and the people who let them slide just a few days later.

The desire to change your life is constant, whether you admit to it or not. You’re always looking for ways to make your life more pleasant and your experience more fulfilling. But New Year’s resolutions that focus solely on measureable outcomes—like exercising more and spending less—are oftentimes counter productive to living a better life.

The solution lies in a more subtle approach to self-care. This year, consider making some broad-based resolutions that direct your life rather than constrain it.

Resolve to be more gentle with yourself

At first blush, this sounds a lot like something you’d read in a typical self-help book. I know I’ve been one to roll my eyes at a suggestion such as this. However, the point is valid: we’re often too tough on ourselves. How often do you find yourself berating yourself for something you view as a “mistake” or getting angry with yourself for a decision you’ve made?

When you talk to yourself, think about what you’d like to hear from a trusted friend or family member. Would they yell at you or put you down? Hopefully not. Apply the same approach to yourself. Being gentle means reducing the amount of guilt or anger you direct at yourself. It means laughing at yourself more and realizing that you are in a constant state of learning.

You are always doing the best you can at any given point in time so stop getting angry if you don’t measure up to your goals. Most goals are simply ideals–desired outcomes. Being gentle with yourself allows you the freedom to reach those ideals in different and unexpected ways.

Resolve to love yourself more

Learning to love yourself is one of the most important lessons you will ever undertake yet many view it in a narcissistic light. Loving yourself isn’t vanity, it’s necessary for spiritual growth and prosperity. Loving yourself takes many forms, from caring for your body to making time for yourself. But the place to start is much more basic: declaring your love for yourself to yourself every day.

If you’re not in the practice of saying, “I love you” to yourself, this will sound and feel odd at first. That’s why it’s important to start small and build a solid foundation. When you stand in the mirror in the morning, simply say to yourself (out loud or with your thoughts), “I love you.” It’s that simple. As you go through your day, make a conscious decision to say, “I love myself,” as many times as you remember to do so. In the beginning, you’ll have to remind yourself to do this. As you keep at it, it will become more natural and you’ll start to actually feel love with the positive affirmation.

If you’re rolling your eyes at this resolution, you’re in need of more self-love. Keep at it every day.

Resolve to follow your impulses

Most people distrust their impulses. They’re often viewed as coming from an unsavory part of the subconscious. However, impulses are messages from the inner self that help guide us toward our best fulfillment. We’ve simply schooled ourselves into believing something bad will happen if we let go and follow those urges to action. (You can read more about impulses here).

Rather than making a full-scale resolution to follow every impulse that comes your way, again, start small. If the impulse to do something shoves its way into your conscious thoughts, stop and recognize it. Follow the thought: what would happen if you let yourself go with the impulse? Pausing and imagining the outcome of that impulse will help train your mind into seeing the benefit of it. Too often we simply block the impulse and discard it.

If you are able to do so, follow an impulse every day. It could be as simple as getting up from your desk to take a quick walk or writing an email to a friend if the thought arises. When an impulse seems to come out of nowhere, pay special attention. Your inner self is trying to get your attention. Honor yourself by seeing where the impulse will take you.

Resolve to follow your joy

Why is following your joy so difficult? Because we believe that it is. Following your joy doesn’t have to mean quitting your job and becoming a beachcomber. It doesn’t mean making huge life changes at every turn. It does mean making small, positive steps toward doing what you enjoy.

Start taking note of the things that bring you joy and satisfaction. Then, make a promise to yourself to do more of those things each day. Spending just a few minutes per day indulging in your joy will bring you more satisfaction than you can ever imagine. Give yourself the permission to do so.

New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be constrictive. Frame 2013 with some basic tenants toward living that will enhance your joy and allow you to Honor Your Spirit. Best wishes for a great year ahead!