Why I’m changing the way I do New Year’s resolutions.
It’s that time of year again. That odd no man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s. A time of lazy reflection on the year gone by. But, being the often self-critical human beings we are, this rarely goes anything like ‘hey, congrats on a fab year, let’s reflect on the things that went really well’. Instead our internal monologue more often resembles ‘we talked about this last year, you promised to be better and we all know you’re not. This year: pull it together’. And from this toxic internal chatter emerges the trusty New Year’s Resolution, or as my younger sister used to call them, New Year’s Revolutions (arguably equally as apt).
I consider myself to be a relatively determined person and yet I have never managed to successfully implement a New Year’s Resolution. Not one single time. Why not? Firstly a year is really quite a long space of time, a whole 365 days if you didn’t know, and sometimes the prospect of keeping something up or going without something for this long seems so daunting a prospect that I don’t even really bother to start. I’m not alone in this: roughly 80% of people apparently give up on their resolution by February. This seems unsurprising as January can be a pretty miserable month and how anyone manages to get through this while going to the gym everyday or without eating chocolate is frankly baffling.
My New Year’s Resolutions have often been too vague. Peaking nervously at the list I made this time last year I wonder how I ever thought I’d achieve any of them at all: exercise more regularly, go on social media less, eat more healthily. The problem with these type of resolutions is that it would be almost impossible to know if you’d achieved them at all and if, like me, you’re quite self-critical you’re more likely to decide that you didn’t reach these lofty heights of self-improvement. If you really want to achieve these things experts (of which, you may have gathered, I am certainly not one) say it’s better to set clear, short term goals so you can measure and celebrate your success.
Mostly, however, I think I never successfully implemented any of these changes because, deep down, I never really wanted to do them at all. Rarely did I choose meaningful resolutions which I really cared about or felt motivated and excited to fulfil. Instead, I often felt guilt-tripped, both by myself and by my surroundings. Instagram is flooded with #newyearnewme type inspo pictures, gym membership adverts appear to pop up like vermin and virtually every publication appears to feature a piece entitled ‘What Resolutions You Should Make in 2019’ (translation: what things you should beat yourself up about not doing this year).
This time of year seems to come packed with pressure to be a better version of yourself, often resulting in an unsustainable approach to change. A lot of resolutions come from the wrong place: a short-term desire to lose weight to look a certain way, a need to appear a certain way in front of certain people or a wish to be someone you know you’re really not. Rather than being a celebration of something or an exciting challenge, resolutions can end up being a form of self-punishment and something we later feel a little guilty about not seeing out.
So this year I have decided to embark on a revolution in resolutions. I started by considering all the things that had gone well in 2018 so my resolutions came from a place of positivity rather than self-flagellation: I may still not be able to speak fluent French but I did fly 3000 miles away from home by myself! I then began thinking about what I actually want to change, rather than what I was being told I needed to change. I have decided to set resolutions which excite me and which I actually want to carry out. These will be verifiable, so I can clearly judge whether or not I succeed. I will set attainable changes which I am more likely to implement.
And here comes the really revolutionary bit: to make it less daunting and more interesting, these resolutions will be for one month only. I will make a new resolution each month, as, like dogs, resolutions are not just for Christmas. Hopefully, these will become habits which last even longer. I will not beat myself up if I don’t always succeed but simply pledge to try my best. So here is my first (hopefully attainable!) resolution for January 2019: I will run at least twice a week, not in pursuit of looking a certain way but as an exciting physical and mental challenge. Let the revolution begin!
(Featured image source: onewomanproject.org)
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