Like many people, I really hate new years resolutions. There’s something about deciding to change your life starting on one specific day that scares me, that seems really daunting and impossible. Mostly I think it’s just because I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like things being definite, being written down, telling myself, “Okay, here is what I have to do to feel good about myself and feel fulfilled.”
Why do people shy away from resolutions?
Maybe it’s from a fear of failure or a dislike of pressure. It could be a fear of setting sights too high and being let down down. I think everyone’s New Years resolutions should be to lower the bar of what people expect from themselves to do on a daily basis or in life. Over the years I’ve learned that New Years resolutions can be helpful. It’s important to take them one step at a time and don’t beat yourself up over not following them exactly.
In the past, my New Years resolutions involved major changes very quickly. I made plans to fully change my diet, start working out five days a week and write unattainable amounts “for fun” every week while I was also a full-time student. I dropped these goals early on, unable to keep up. I was extremely disappointed in myself. I was trying to bite off more than I could chew and was mad when I choked.
This year, my New Years resolutions were to drink more water and read more books.
I made them vague on purpose — no exact numbers, no deadlines and no specific mark to hit. This ended up working in my favor and I was less stressed about making changes. I now carry around a larger water bottle and I read over 20 books this year!
It took small steps, like reading instead of watching TV before I go to bed as well as buying a new water bottle and being mindful about carrying it. I definitely forgot a few times in the first couple of weeks, but like all habits that you work toward, it eventually became second nature with time.
The important benefit of New Years goals is that they’re meant to better yourself. Ideally, they’re steps you want to take better care of yourself, start a new skill or begin a new chapter in your life. But it’s possible to challenge yourself without burning yourself out. How can you be better if you’re pushing yourself so hard that you’re not functioning at full capacity?
My accomplishments this year came from being kind and patient with myself. These small but intentional goals helped me to reflect and feel gratitude about my life throughout the year. Maybe that’s a completed goal in itself.
A good place to start is to hone in your focus on what you want to work on this year.
I would recommend writing down one goal, and then write down a few steps you can take toward achieving it. Consider reaching out to people you know who have achieved similar goals. I bet they’d be happy to help you get started. If you’re like me and love to-do lists, make a to-do list for the next day.
Don’t try to outstretch your goals too far too fast. Speaking from experience, they’ll look impossible. As you keep working over time, extend your goal planning to a few days later, a week later and as time goes on you can build up to month long plans if that works for you. Scheduling may seem meticulous, but I promise it helps and keeps things in perspective.
I don’t want to discourage people from making sweeping New Years resolutions!
If that’s your style, more power to you. I’ve seen people start going to the gym in the new year and go consistently for years to come. Every year people stick to resolutions of becoming vegetarians, writing books or taking classes. But I can guarantee, they didn’t start off at hyper-speed and stay at that pace the whole year.
Everyone’s heard that cliche line, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” but in this case it’s very true! A year is a long time. I encourage everyone who is setting New Years resolutions to be honest, but not self-deprecating, about what you can accomplish.
January 1st isn’t always a crucial life changing day and that’s okay.
I am a big proponent of personal self growth at your own pace. Make positive changes for yourself in any way that feels good for you! It’s not helpful to compare yourself to everyone’s inevitable Instagram post screenshots of their iPhone note resolutions. Your resolutions should be curated to your needs and time — not anybody else’s.
Also published on Medium.