Skip the Resolutions, Pick a New Year’s Theme

 ADHD Weekly, January 17, 2019

We’re halfway through January. Have you broken your New Year’s resolution yet?

You did? Good, it’s quite all right. Only about eight percent of people who make resolutions actually keep them. We can safely guess that the majority of people who deal with ADHD symptoms are not going to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

A new idea that may be a better fit is a New Year theme. Setting a theme allows you to project what you would like from your year and let in—or take out—the things that don’t support your theme. It’s goal-setting that meets your needs.

Why a theme?

New Year’s resolutions seldom work. Too often we set “big changes” for ourselves, and we don’t take into account the need for novelty, the difficulty of staying with a task once it gets boring, the forgetfulness and inattention that come along with ADHD, and the scheduling changes the resolution might bring to our routines. After a little bit of time, the resolution becomes too much and is left by the wayside.

“What makes a theme so special is that you don’t have to stick to it every day,” says Megan Poorman, a biomedical engineer. “You don’t have to check a box; you don’t have to guilt trip yourself. There is no task to fail at, no rubric to measure yourself by, and no waiting for next year to try again. Having a theme for the year is almost like setting a mantra. It serves as a guiding principle when making decisions and reflecting on events. Setting a theme removes the daily pressure of measuring yourself against something you wish you were and encourages a holistic approach to self-awareness.”

Your theme can be an idea, a word, or a simple goal for your year. Ms. Poorman suggests keeping it as short as possible. By journeying through your year with the theme in mind, it can help you make day-to-day decisions or evaluate choices and short-term goals as they come up. Each one of these choices or short-term goals will help to build up and reinforce your theme as you go forward.

For example, if your theme for the year is Time, then perhaps daily choices are “What gives me more time with my partner?” or “Will accepting this invitation decrease time I can spend on my art or hobby?” It may be that a theme of Time includes building a new morning or evening routine. It becomes about how it is important for you to spend your time, rather than giving it away to activities that are unimportant to you or your family.

“With a theme, it’s not so much about setting a goal and trying to hit it,” says Miranda Marquit. “Instead, it’s about working on adding more to your life, based on your theme. Setting a theme still gives you some leeway to set mini-goals along the way with your life, so you don’t have to abandon goals altogether.”

Pick your theme

January is a good time to pick your theme, though you can also choose another month or date that is significant to you.

Marcia Reynolds PsyD, who writes Wander Woman for has an outline for picking your 2019 theme:

  • Learn from the Past Year
    Review the last year and the choices you made without judgement. What did you do last year that you would like to do more often this year?
  • Clearly See the Present
    Where are you today? Is this where you want to be, are these the things and people that make you happy? Again, without judgement, survey where you are and what you feel is best for you.
  • Declare What Lights You Up
    Be honest with yourself about what makes you happy—not what “should” make you happy. Where is your creativity? Who brings joy to your life by their presence? If there is something in life you would want to do, what is that?
  • Decide on Your Theme
    Now, with the first three steps, decide on your theme. What is your joy, your goal, and who brings happiness into your life? Pick your theme based on what supports those answers. Not remaking yourself, not conquering ADHD symptoms, but what theme will offer guidance and support for you.
  • Clean Up the Path
    Going forward, look at your choices in light of your theme. How does what you choose to do or include fit into that theme or support it?
  • Commit to Your Theme
    Some days, everything will fit your theme—and some days, nothing will. That’s okay. Keep your theme in mind when setting your daily goals and short-term plans. Use it to help move toward the things that make you happier and support your long-term goals, whatever they may be.

—adapted from Set Your Theme of the Year Before You Set Your Goals: Answer these questions to give meaning and direction to your life

Your 2019 theme is…

ADHD interferes with many of our plans. It, along with co-occurring conditions, can sometime present challenges in life that in the moment seem too hard to overcome. However, working with a professional and creating a treatment plan that works for you is an important step in managing symptoms and living the life you want.

You might want to work through picking a theme for this year on your own, or you may choose to work with a trusted friend or professional. Unlike a New Year’s resolution, a theme has a lot of leeway and develops throughout the year.

Want more ideas?