It’s the second week of February. How are those New Year’s resolutions going?
I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions. I know I’m not alone in the belief that you can make a change in your life any time during the year, but I do recognize that there is a heightened motivation to do so when you have a “fresh start” in January, so this year I decided to give it a try. My three resolutions include: starting a blog (and consistently updating it), eventually be able to run 5 miles, and finish the book I am writing. So far so good… but then again, it’s only been five weeks.
I often think about the many pros and cons of making New Year’s resolutions… as I tend to do in most situations, considering my specialty in life is being a Master of Over Analysis. Something I love about resolutions is the ability to work toward a goal. Especially if you have them written down (which of course I do- my second speciality in life is being a Master of Writing Lists). As most of you know from, you know, life, working toward a goal is motivating, inspiring, and gives you a plan of action for the times you’re scrambling for some order. Accomplishing new things and making strides toward a goal is extremely rewarding. For example, I’ll take a second to brag about the THREE AND A HALF MILES I ran yesterday!!!! I am so happy about it. But of course, this can potentially lead to all of things I hate about resolutions…
Expectations. Unrealistic deadlines. Disappointment.
Here’s another example for you. One of my resolutions for 2015 was to finish the book I’m writing. Sound familiar? As you can probably guess from the recycled goal, I did not achieve this last year. Once December rolled around and I realized I still needed to write several chapters to wrap up my story and basically zero time to do it on top of final exams, I was pretty bummed. I started 2015 with the confidence that I could finish the project I had been working on for so long, only to come to the conclusion that a year later, I hadn’t made the progress I had expected to make. Sure, I made some minor edits. Wrote some new chapters. But as I sit right now in the second week of February writing this blog post, I am still nowhere near the end of my book. And to be completely honest, I’m pretty mad about it.
So does this mean I failed? Technically, yes. I failed at finishing my book within the arbitrary time limit I gave myself. But does recycling an old resolution technically count if it was something I set out to do last year? I’m gonna go ahead and say yes.
Like I mentioned before, setting out to do something new or trying to achieve a new goal isn’t something that needs to begin the first day of January. It’s not something that needs to happen the second week of February. While guidelines definitely give you some motivation, I also think they have the potential to add unnecessary pressure to what I’m sure is already a stressful time for anyone. A start to the new year probably also means you just spent a ton of money on Christmas presents, or maybe you’re mad at the world because it won’t stop snowing. (If you know me at all these are both real life scenarios I can personally attest to). Why give yourself the added pressure of doing something for the sake of saying “I completed my New Year’s resolution!” And as someone who loves nothing more than crossing things off lists, this was a frustrating conclusion for me to come to terms with.
I don’t think the concept of resolutions are completely arbitrary, but I do think we need to shift our thinking about them.
(Wait… a blog post where I try to get you to shift your thinking about something? HOW SHOCKING!!!!!)
One way I have started to change my thinking about resolutions is rather than seeing them as solid, concrete goals, I’ve given myself the freedom to let them change. At first I told myself I was going to update my blog every Monday. So far so good, but I expect to be upset in the upcoming weeks if I miss this deadline, even if I have good reasons, like I was too busy with schoolwork or I needed to pet my dog. Instead, I can say that I gave it a try and change my goal just slightly. Maybe I will update every 2 weeks instead. Maybe I’ll take some time to focus on a different resolution. Because when it comes down to it, you’re trying something new, and I think that’s worth celebrating.
Don’t get me wrong, I know pressure is sometimes a good thing. Pressure and fear and stress all motivate action. But just like vegetables, pressure is only good in moderation. (Yes, vegetables. Who really wants to eat them AM I RIGHT????)
So I wish all of you luck on the resolutions you made last month. If you’ve already decided it’s not going to happen, take some time to make some new goals and maybe start again tomorrow. Or in March. Or in the summer. Because let’s be real, we’ll all have more motivation to go to the gym when all the snow is gone and you don’t have to wear a jacket.