New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap.
For years, I proudly proclaimed that I didn’t make them. My reasons for doing so sounded firmly grounded in the practical: most of ’em are abandoned within a few months, most are way too ambitious (i.e. the ever popular “This is the year I will get in shape” comes to mind) and lastly, it never made sense to me why the first of the year was just so darn special as opposed to any other time of the year.
After all don’t we as human beings, possessors of free will, have the ability to make changes any time of the year that we wish?
While all this still makes a certain amount of sense to me, recently my thinking has shifted: New Year’s resolutions may not be such a bad thing after all. Indeed, they may even be helpful for reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not we actually accomplish them.
Therefore, in no particular order, here are some reason why we should consider making a resolution or two.
They can give us something to focus on on those post-holiday months.
TS Eliot may have thought April was the cruelest month, but I disagree. January and February tie for my cruelest and bleakest ones. Part of it has to do with the post-holiday letdown. Also, in many part of the US and other areas, these tend to the coldest months of the year. Spring time can seem light years away.
This is where having something to focus on can come in handy. At the very least, it’s a way to temporary get our minds off the gloom. On another note, it may involve us doing something we won’t normally do. Say for instance, we make a resolution to exercise more and sign up for fitness classes or a join a gym. Even if it turns out not to be thing, there is the potential to meet new people or at least shake up our usual routines for awhile.
They can instill a sense of optimism and hope.
I will begin by acknowledging that there are dangers of setting unrealistic goals. For instance, If you tell yourself you’re going to be the best person ever and have the sort of inner peace that would make the Dali Lama weep, there is a huge change you will fail. However, trying to strive for something better or even envisioning our lives being a bit better, more manageable, (etc.) can make us feel a sense of optimism and foster a much-needed sense of belief in ourselves.
While perfection may be impossible, improvement is not.
Plus, even if we don’t completely accomplish what we set out to do, then we can learn to take pride in what we did do rather than what we did not which leads me to the last point.
They can help us see that life isn’t all or nothing.
Sometimes we forget that we are human. We make mistakes. We take steps forward and we take steps backwards.
It happens to us all.
Often times we make resolutions and don’t keep the above in mind. For example, say we decide we aren’t going to let little things bother us any more. It sounds good, but there are always going to be days when so-called little things get under our skin. It may be tempting to say, “Well, so much for that!” and abandon it entirely. However, it’s far more useful to check in at say 3, 6 or 12 months time and notice if far fewer things triggered us this year than in the past year.
Even if we don’t notice a difference, we can still keep that goal in mind.
Even if it turns out that we can only let go of one small thing and not let it bother us, then that is an accomplishment.
New Year’s resolutions have long been seen as cheesy and unrealistic—but there is some value in setting them. Even if you happen to be one of the cool kids who would rather die than admit to anyone that you have one, privately making one and checking in from time to time may be beneficial for one or all the reasons above.
If you still need convincing, then think of it this way: You have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.
Happy New Year!
Author: Kimberly Lo
Editor: Renée Picard