Read Time: 9 Minutes
Hello hello! I hope you had a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Years Eve.
We’ve escaped the God-forsaken year that was 2020 (FINALLY). Now’s about time you’ve perhaps started to think about New Years resolutions you hope to tackle in 2021. We may also reflect on those resolutions we made at the beginning of last year – the ones we met, and the ones we did not. Perhaps you’re someone who takes resolutions very seriously. Perhaps you start out strong with your resolutions, only to find they start to peeter out a few months after making them. Perhaps you don’t set resolutions at all, or you’re a mix of all three states at any given time around the end of the year, as I happen to be.
If they carve a path to commitment for you, then by all means, carve on. But for those of you who are a bit like me when you don’t meet your resolutions, and find yourself feeling more crappy than accepting, more guilty than nonchalant that you didn’t get to them or achieve them, fear not. I’ve got a little pep talk planned for you and I today with regards to getting out of the resolution rut. A little “tough love” (why you didn’t meet them) mixed with a little “don’t sweat the small stuff” (give yourself a break).
Why Resolutions Shouldn’t Be Called “Resolutions“
As I get older, I find myself questioning the necessity of New Years resolutions. While a resolution is primarily defined as a “firm decision to do or not do something” (Oxford Dictionary), a resolution can also mean “the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter” (Oxford Dictionary). A resolution may imply, that there’s a potential problem that needs solving in the first place. While some people may be looking to “solve a problem” within themselves or an aspect of their lives through the resolutions they set, I’d like to point out now, that there is nothing within you that needs solving. You are not a problem to be fixed or solved. Rather, I like to think that when the average person sets a resolution they are more so wanting to make something better, to improve, or to realign themselves with what’s important to them.
In fact, society would be much better off if we all referred to resolutions as realignments, instead. Rather than “my resolution is to lose 10 pounds” we could potentially reframe that into “My realignment is to improve my physical health by eating healthy and going to the gym xxx times a week, because I honor my body and a healthy lifestyle is consistent with my core values”. It becomes a bigger picture, as opposed to just a number on a scale. You have more “why” behind it now, and you identify that it is something that is important to you that you’d like to realign yourself with.
Why Resolutions (Usually) Don’t Stick … And Why We Feel Crappy When They Don’t
Right off the bat, I will state my opinion that resolutions don’t always mix well with human nature and the society we live in.
Placing resolutions on such a high pedestal (as well as a certain level of pressure on ourselves to complete them), means that when we fail at them as so many of us inevitably do, the feeling of falling off the wagon becomes that much stronger, and hurts that much more – hence feeling guilty or crappy. Many of us also tend to identify relatively high aspirations as our resolutions, but don’t expect the work that needs to be put into them. Some of us even expect instant results, and when we don’t see the results in the timeframe we’d like, we get discouraged and/or lose interest. 9 times out of 10, however, the results will not be instant – they will take time and you have to be prepared for that (unless you’re like me and listed making margaritas as one of my 2020 New Years resolutions – it’s the little things, people).
At the core of New Years resolutions, we need to stop looking at them as the definitive point at which we start the year fresh. I agree that a fresh start in January is an awesome feeling, but come February, when you’ve perhaps fallen off the wagon, it ain’t so fresh feeling anymore. You can realign yourself, or set a new goal at any point throughout the year (what a truly innovative concept).
I commit to going to the gym 3 times this wee- ooh look shiny thing!
I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone when I say that human nature is often fickle and our resolve in many instances is temporary. Combine fickle and fleeting and we find ourselves entangled in an all too common theme: January is the month for gym sessions, but come February, you find yourself more nights than not with butt planted to couch, hand planted to remote, mouth planted to a bag of Miss Vickies chips (huh, how did those get in my pantry?). Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a couch date night, I ain’t saying that.
A non-New Year related example can also be seen in the 7 o’clock rally cries for frontline healthcare workers. At the beginning of the pandemic, my street was filled with folks who would clang pots and pans, clap and show appreciation. However, the celebrations have fallen silent in recent months. People get tired, people’s enthusiasm, drive, interest, attention begins to wane. It comes to show that it can happen to something as simple and mundane as stepping outside to your patio and/or deck at a certain time to clap.
Comparison is the thief of joy
Guilt and “feeling bad” that you didn’t accomplish your resolutions, can also come from comparing ourselves and what we accomplished to what we see others have accomplished. This time of year, many folks extol resolutions and achievements they met throughout the year on social media. Comparison via the social media accounts of others, is a bitch any other day of the year. However, there’s just something about comparing what you accomplished throughout the year and stacking it up against what someone else accomplished, which is that much more of a thorn thrust into our sides in late December.
So How Do We Make Those “Resolutions” Actually Stick?
I know it’s way easier said than done (I as an overthinking, recovering perfectionist can attest) but give yourself a break and stop being so damn hard on yourself about everything: About your resolutions, about where you’re at in life, about how you managed to survive 2020, about what your cat really thinks of you.
Here’s the kicker – YOU SURVIVED A PANDEMIC. Even in the years there was not a pandemic, you survived those, too.
You woke up this morning, you fed yourself (and your stinking cat), you got dressed. You managed to do all that, plus drag your ass to your home office, and work from home for yet another umpteenth day, like the little droid you are.
Start by checking in with yourself
Did you do what you could to achieve what you wanted? Did you try to the best of your abilities? If yes, then AMAAAAAAZING! If not, well then explore that within yourself, hold yourself accountable. Why didn’t you? Was it because you stopped going consistently to the gym? Was it because you failed to maintain a routine of spending one hour a week on that novel or screenplay you are writing? Was it because the parameters of the “resolution” you set out to meet were too big? On that note, there’s nothing wrong with “dreaming big”, but to go from someone who doesn’t “gym” at all, to suddenly “gym” 5 times a week as per your resolution, you will probably burn out.
Did you ask too much of yourself based on your current skill level? That can happen too.
Write down what you hope to achieve – and plot a course
Did you write down your resolutions? That’s a great starting point. Get them out of your chunkin’ head, dude, and take a good hard look at them. What is the timeline you’d like to accomplish them (keeping in mind what I said before about “bigger ticket resolutions” taking a longer time)? How will you get there, between now and then? What does the accomplishment, the success, the light at the end of the tunnel look like for you?
I wrote down and reflected on my 2020 “resolutions” – some I tackled. Some I did not tackle. Some I was unable to tackle because of COVID-19 (that bitch). Some petered off too. In the rare case, there were some I hadn’t even outlined in January 2020, such as this blog. They developed with time, and eventually I created an outline of what I wanted to achieve with it.
It’s important to keep in mind that it takes us as humans a little while to build up a consistent habit (I think the figure is 3 weeks, approximately), so remember to be patient with yourself.
Start small then work your way up
And hey, if you’re at a loss for how you’re going to tackle your resolutions, start with tackling a smaller one on your list if you have it, and build your way up. For example, if you want to get creative, pick up a pen and paper and sketch, purchase a paint by number, or sign up for an art class. For myself, I would like to try my hand at writing poetry in 2021 – once you get out of your own head and out of your way, it’s simply putting pen to paper. We all have to start somewhere.
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