THE BLOG
12/30/2013 05:55 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2014

Don't Make Resolutions -- Do This!

Every year we do the same thing around January. We reflect, which is a great thing, and then we make resolutions, which often aren't as helpful as we need them to be.

It's not just because we can't keep them. It's not all the money we spend on losing weight, getting fitter, or self-help (only to find in a few months the changes we made didn't stick). It's not the subtle, nagging feeling of hopelessness that just won't go away when we fail to make the changes (which everyone knows you can fix with friends, pizza, and a John Hughes marathon).

The problem is that to be resolved is to find a solution or set a course of action. Why would I set a goal of losing weight (which I need to do a bit more of), working out more (who doesn't need more of that), or working less (I'd like to, but then who will build the empire) when I've already got enough pressure in my life?

Add MORE to think about and it turns on the alarm in my brain. That creates more stress, which makes me reactive. Reactive people eat more. They drink more. They sit on the couch more. Reactive people do anything to feel better fast and chocolate ice cream always seems to work faster than a work out.

When all the programs, quick-fixes, pills, apps, and gym memberships have not helped us make the changes we really want to make, something deeper needs to change. For me this year, it's my attitude.

Attitude is your state of mind. It's your mood. A bad attitude: everything sucks. An attitude that actually refocuses your brain and takes pressure off moments that don't have to be as stressful as they can feel: life changing. With an attitude that reduces stress, the things that create stress don't shut us down so quickly or for as long.

My attitude for this year: playful.

When family or coworkers project their madness on me, I will smirk and tease them (at least internally). When the news details another atrocity, I will say a quick prayer. I will turn off the screen, and then FaceTime with my niece. She's always playful. She really wants a puppy and will clearly have a new list of prospects to show me. When I feel chubby, tired, and overworked, I will make plans to see said niece. She got a glitter tattoo set for Christmas and promises to cover my arm with stars and a unicorn.

Having a more positive attitude is the old adage and that may be enough. For me though, positive doesn't capture it. I don't feel positive in the midst of the many struggles that we all have too much exposure to. I work in the helping professions and I'm often in the middle of crisis with people. Positivity may not help when really bad things happen.

But what about intentionally focusing on being peaceful? Other attitudes that have helped people I've worked with are being more mindful, compassionate, or non-reactive. Imagine taking a step back every time you felt stressed.

And then what happens because of the new attitude? For me, and it's already happening, I eat less because I'm creatively lightening things up, not coping with copious quantities of cheeseburgers. I work out more because I don't feel shut down from taking everything so seriously. And that work problem? The one facing all of us. How much time do we spend ruminating about it when we could be learning the tango, shooting hoops, making popovers, or spending time with the little people in your life who really don't care that your big project is a mess and your team is underperforming? They want to play go fish and they want to play it now.

I'm done with resolutions. But I am going to pay more attention to my state of mind. When I get too serious, too worked up, and all too concerned about the things that will always be a challenge, I will think playful. I will be playful. I will do a little attitude check. What could a little attitude adjustment do for you in the new year?