It’s that time – mid- January- which means you’ve likely already given up on your New Year’s resolutions and lost your will to become a New You. While it’s easy to get dejected in such a situation, if we change our schematics around the New Year and resolution-making altogether, we can feel empowered to make meaningful changes any day of the year.
We all want to live our best lives. In fact, “live your best life” is an annoyingly ubiquitous phrase that captures the zeitgeist pretty well, with our society’s current focus on wellness, emotional and spiritual fulfillment, “doing you”, and achieving personal growth and success on our own terms. New Year’s resolutions seem pretty in-line with this idea of “living your best life” because they seem to give people the opportunity to define what they want and resolve to go get it. However, if New Year’s resolutions were such powerful catalysts for personal change, we wouldn’t feel the collective need to make New Year’s resolutions every year because we already would have accomplished our goals in previous years, right?
While I strongly believe in peoples’ abilities to grow, change, manifest their wills, and achieve their goals through hard work, I can’t stand New Year’s resolutions. The phrase “New Year, New You” is one of the most irritating phrases in our language, because it is extremely trite and simply not true. Just because the clock strikes midnight does not mean that we can change long-standing behaviors and achieve important life goals that we have yet to accomplish.
Eat healthier. Exercise more. Lose weight. Quit smoking. Try a new activity. Save money. Stress less. Travel more. All of these are common resolutions, and they generally represent deep-seated desires that people have had for some time. The problem with choosing the new calendar year as a time to resolve to make a major life change is that it is arbitrary: simply a meaningless date on a calendar which society has decided is “the day” to become better, whatever that means. If we stop to actually think about the practice of New Year’s resolutions, it starts to feel absurd to believe that a random date is going to propel us, collectively as humans, to break unhealthy habits and addictions while proactively setting out to achieve our goals. Making New Year’s resolutions therefore sets us up for failure because we attribute some magical power to the “new year” and its ability to make us change.
The reality is that accomplishing a major personal goal or taking meaningful steps to do so requires the special sauce that drives all human action- and that is motivation. We fail at New Year’s resolutions because we are lacking, in that given time and space, the genuine motivation, will, and grit that it takes to change. What we need to start doing, then, is deciding that every day is a new year, a new opportunity to make consistent and long-term changes in any area of our lives- if we are motivated to do so. Whether related to our health, careers, or relationships, we should only make resolutions when we’re truly motivated and ready. Ditching the New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t make us feel powerless and hopeless, but rather empowered to make changes in our lives when we are actually ready while not feeling the social pressure to make resolutions we’re not ready for. As we all know, making resolutions simply because “it’s that time” frequently leads to failure and giving up on that goal for the rest of the year or maybe even forever.
So save your money and don’t join a gym, don’t sign up for a new activity you’ve always wanted to do, don’t quit your job, and don’t join a dating app- until you’re truly ready! That readiness, the fire under the ass, so to speak, may happen next week, next month, next year, or in the next decade- it could happen anytime. And when you find and feel your motivation, you will resolve, in a real way, to make the changes to achieve what you desire. But for now, you’re still the same old you, and that’s ok. Because you are ok and worthwhile just as you are, so be gentle with yourself. And because you get every day for the rest of your life to decide if you do want to change something that you have control over, and that’s a lot more empowering and practical than having just one day, one opportunity. Let’s stop reveling in the new year as the opportunity for some “new you”, and start celebrating our amazing ability to make positive choices and achieve our goals any day of the year.