Personal Development

How to Write Your “23 for 2023” List

During the tasks of everyday life, we can get so busy that it can be difficult to take the energy and time to pause and reflect.

For this reason, I’m a big fan of any exercise that helps us to step back and think about changes we might make to become happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative.

Often, that catalyst is a date, such as January 1—if you want more ideas of dates to use, take a look at the Calendar of Catalysts.

Questioners may protest that the date of January 1 is arbitrary, but it does mark a milestone in time, and is a cultural moment that reminds us to think big and broad.

On the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, we discuss different approaches to making change. For 2023, we’ve talked about joining the yearly challenge (#Outside23in23), identifying a one-word theme for 2023, and making a “23 for 2023” list.

Research shows that when we set specific aims for ourselves, no surprise, we’re more likely to achieve them. So taking the time to make this list can make a big difference to our happiness.

Over the years, we’ve seen the creative ways that people approach these lists.

How to make your 23 for 2023 list:

  • Use the number 23 in a creative way, such as “Try 23 new recipes” or as Elizabeth notes, “Read 23 novels”
  • Divide the list into categories, such as “Family,” “Career,” “Adventure” “Fun”
  • Build the entire list around a single important aim, such as “Move” or “Switch careers”
  • Build the entire list your one-word theme—for instance, “Earn” or “Fewer”
  • It’s helpful to be concrete, and frame items as actions, not outcomes—not “Learn Italian” but “Memorize 5 new words every day” or “Use Duolingo every day”
  • Consider whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel—take the free “Four Tendencies” personality quiz
  • Create a compelling visual display of your list
  • Review your list frequently—I aim to review my list on the 23rd of every month
  • Consider making a list of only enjoyable items! Especially you Obligers!
  • Share a list with someone else, to work on aims together
  • Pay attention to vocabulary—the same activity can be much more appealing, or not, depending on how we frame it, the vocabulary we use.

Don’t worry about whether you’ll be able to cross off all 23 items.
Neither Elizabeth nor I has ever managed to complete an entire list! But making this list help us to be happier.

Want to make list of your “23 for 2023?” Download the free PDF here. We love to see people’s lists—it’s fascinating to see what people do with their list—so if you’re so inclined, post it to #23for23 on social media. We can all learn from each other.

Elizabeth’s 23 for 2023 list:

One-word theme is SCALE.

  1. Hike Fryman Canyon 50 times—she’s going to track in the Happier™ app
  2. Floss every night
  3. Get back in her wedding rings
  4. Hike in Ojai with Sarah
  5. Take a trip with friends from high school
  6. Get the perfect small cross-body bag
  7. Use her packing cubes
  8. Read 23 novels (this includes audiobooks)
  9. During the potential writers’ strike, outline a novel
  10. Try pickleball
  11. Get her mah jong group going again
  12. Always carry Kleenex
  13. Get two body scans
  14. Walk to Malibu
  15. Finish her will with Adam
  16. Go outside 23 minutes a day—of course!
  17. Host a family party
  18. Build up Daisy’s and Nacho’s stamina so they can go on hikes
  19. Upgrade her home office
  20. Throw out gross t-shirts—both hard and easy to do
  21. Get a new robe
  22. Go away for a night with friends
  23. Do Season Three of Fantasy Island—an outcome, but she’s going to manifest it

Gretchen’s 23 for 2023 list

One-word theme is WAVE.

  1. Visit the Met every day
  2. Go outside 23 in 23
  3. Catch up on my photo albums
  4. 30 straight days of culture
  5. Tackle one difficult email per day
  6. Make standing haircut appointments
  7. Buy new underwear
  8. Have a summer of re-reading
  9. Be more systematic about connecting with friends and colleagues
  10. Buy airplane jeans
  11. Help Eleanor get a driver’s license and Elizabeth to make a will
  12. Figure out the direction for my next writing project
  13. Enjoy 23 seconds of sensory delight each day
  14. Wear make-up every day
  15. Work on my Muse Machine
  16. Create a time capsule for 2023—we talked about this idea in episode 401
  17. Ask people for the names of journalists who might be interested in my book Life in Five Senses
  18. Start a new group
  19. Once a month, pick a New York City place I’ve never visited, and go there
  20. Embrace this year of family transition
  21. Review this list on the 23rd of each month
  22. Add a “My Thirty Minutes” to my calendar each workday (and figure out a catchy name for this time)
  23. Watch a great TV show

Elizabeth and I have made these lists for several years, and each year, we’re so happy we did it. It’s a very clarifying and creative exercise. 

Also, it’s a fun exercise to do with other people. Elizabeth and I have a great time talking about our lists together; sharing lists is a great way to spark conversation about interests, values, and aims. Try doing it with friends, family, or co-workers. You may find items that you’d like to tackle together.

Have you found any fresh ways to articulate and work towards your aims? Making a New Year’s resolution isn’t the only way!

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