It’s the end of the first week of 2016 and I can say with confidence that I have not carried out a single New Year’s resolution. This is not an admission of failure. I simply didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions to begin with.
I never do.
I tried it once upon a time and realized very quickly that I hate New Year’s resolutions, and here’s why:
No one ever seems able to keep them! Maybe for a few weeks. Possibly even a few months. But for an entire year? For the rest of your life? No. It just doesn’t seem to work. That’s why the gyms are overcrowded in January (well, that and the fact that we all realize just how many cookies we ate over the holidays) and then back to normal by mid-February (at which point we come to terms with how many cookies we ate and move on with life).
It’s very easy, when everything’s all sparkly and champagne-y and new, to promise yourself that you’re going to do X, Y, and Z in this shiny new year.
It’s entirely another thing to actually get up and do that hour of pilates, or run that mile, or color code your closet (and keep it that way), or become the chef extraordinaire you always knew you could be with a little practice.
Of course, I do think it’s fatalistic to say that New Year’s resolutions can’t be kept or that they shouldn’t be made. If they work for you, that’s amazing and I am insanely jealous!
The problem for me, and possibly for many others, is that making a resolution to change something in one’s life, usually something important, at the beginning of a new year puts a lot of weight on the when. As soon as you begin to slip a little, as soon as you cheat on your diet or your exercise regiment, as soon as you give up on those French lessons or that new project you were sure you’d find super easy and fun, the glitter of the New Year’s Resolution begins to wear off. As the year gets older, so does the resolution. As the resolution’s initial shine fades, you may (like I have) find that it’s quite easy to give up on it altogether.
After all, you can always make the same resolution next year, can’t you? By July, the year is more than halfway done, anyway, so you’re closer to the new year than you are to the beginning of this one! And since it’s absolutely gauche to start a New Year’s resolution in the middle of the year, why don’t you just wait and try again next year? Next year, it’s sure to work.
So then, you end up spending half a year not doing any of the productive things you promised yourself you would do all because you plan to start doing them at the beginning of the next year, as is proper. I’ll let you take one wild guess as to what will happen next year.
So, now that I’ve rained all over everyone’s New Year’s resolutions (Eeyore and Puddleglum would be so proud), what is my answer to this problem?
It’s quite simple, really.
Instead of placing so much weight on a yearly resolution, make daily or weekly resolutions all year long. If you renew your promises to yourself every day or every week, you are more likely to keep up with them. If you slip up or give up on them for days or even weeks at a time, there is no reason you cannot simply resolve on any given day to start up again.
Obviously, there is still a lot of willpower needed to make anything happen for any length of time. I have yet to keep up with any sort of healthy diet for more than two months at a time (I mean, come on… I bake) and exercise is even harder for me. Until someone shows me how to knit and exercise at the same time, gravity is going to continue mysteriously pulling me couch-ward.
But enough of my failures. Let’s talk about other people’s failures!
I often think that people use New Year’s resolutions as an excuse not to make resolutions at any other time of the year, and that’s sad to me. The rest of the year is important too! Things happen; situations change; life takes us by surprise. Sometimes we have to adjust our resolutions, our plans, our expectations on a daily basis, and for someone like me (who is an obsessive, list-making Myers-Briggs J sort of person) that is quite difficult to do, especially if I have given myself a grand New Year’s Plan I expect to follow long term.
My solution is to give myself shorter term goals that I feel like I can achieve.
So, as the first week of 2016 draws to a close, I have given myself a few goals for next week:
- Try at least 2 new recipes for dinner
- Limit my sugar intake
- Take a walk every day that weather and health permit
- Finish my latest audiobook and start a new one
Yes, these are modest goals, but I know I can manage them. These are all things that are not necessarily habitual, so I am writing them down and promising myself that they will happen. They are especially alluring to me when presented as a list. I love checking things off lists. Maybe I should start putting vegetables in lists so I can trick myself into eating them…
And now, I will end this post with a couple of questions:
What goals have you made, either for the year or shorter term? What helps you fulfill goals, especially the ones that don’t come naturally in your day to day life?