The start of the year is here, and we know in our hearts that our resolutions rarely lead to lasting change. I'm right there with you; I haven't set a New Year's resolution in years. 

What can you do in place of resolutions to reinvent yourself in the new year? I reached out to previous guests on my podcast and got 29 great responses from successful leaders on what they do to start the year off right. I'm sharing a few of the most unique to help you find your way.

1. Look at how you're evolving. 

Beyond your goals, look at how you're evolving as a person. Sujan Patel is co-founder of Mailshake, a sales enablement software company, and a partner in Ramp Ventures, a company that buys SaaS companies. Patel learned years ago from a comedian to look back to see how much he's grown: "If I look back on myself one year ago and don't feel like I was a fool, then I'm not growing fast enough." 

I find one of the strongest forces of growth is to be radically honest with yourself. It's hard to look at your past and accept that you have not shown up at your optimal level. Reflecting back at your results will give you clues about how you can make changes for the future and will improve the alignment between your behavior and your beliefs, if you do it well. 

2. Get away from your routine.

Business leaders often find it difficult to get away from their day-to-day routines. Jan Bednar, founder of ShipMonk, shared how his executive team gathers for a yearly executive retreat to guide its year-over-year growth and consecutive ranking on the Inc. 5000. "Our executive retreat is in a remote, no-service place where we review budgets, set objectives, and align on strategy for the year," he said. It's also a chance to have some fun, too. I have found that being intentional about team bonding will improve your ability to persevere through tough times. 

Another way to reflect on the year is to spend time alone to spark creativity. Getting away from daily distractions will help you see new perspectives. I love finding a new coffee shop to set new goals and strategies for next year. Getting out of your routine will bring new energy to your planning. 

3. Use your pictures to guide this year.

One unique ritual was shared by keynote speaker Ryan Avery, who was the youngest World Champion of Public Speaking at 25. He and his wife discuss their favorite photos for the previous year and reflect on what was meaningful to them. Then, they see what photos are missing that they want to capture this year. Avery explained, "Our ritual allows us to dream together and think of our future while also appreciating the past." 

What would your pictures say about the year you had?

4. Write your future story.

Another approach to new year planning is what Angelique Rewers, founder of the Corporate Agent, does each year. Her company serves thousands of business owners working with large corporations like Starbucks and Google. Rewers shared, "Each year, I write a 'story' about my life as though it's one year in the future." 

Rewers writes the story in third-person voice, as though she's a spectator who's watched the year unfold. She doesn't edit while writing, nor does she concern herself with the steps of making it all happen. "Part of the magic of this process is bypassing all the questions about 'how' these things are going to happen," she said. "It is skipping over all the strategic planning and any resistance because it's just a story."

5. Create a new ritual.

A number of people who shared their strategies for the start of the year mentioned starting with something connected to their soul. A great example comes from Mike Michalowicz, author of Profit First. Each year, he sits down at his vintage Royal typewriter, and takes out a piece of paper listing his personal and business goals from the previous year. He marks what he accomplished and what he didn't. Then, he inserts a new piece of paper and types his goals for the coming year. That typewriter sits on his desk to constantly remind him of his goals. "It is a throwback to what past authors worked on," Michalowicz shared. "It reminds me of the power of the word and my commitment to write from my heart."

The start of the year is always a good time for reflection -- you have more time with work slowing down a bit. There's also a natural "end of a year, beginning of a new year" energy. Is it time to find something that works for you beyond resolutions?

Published on: Jan 6, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.