WARNING: The following is yet another blog entry about New Year’s resolutions. The author is self-aware and understands that such pieces are hackneyed and cliched, and he totally understands if you’d rather not take the time to read it.
I don’t like new year’s resolutions. Or resolutions in general. They’re a set-up for failure, and I stopped making them ages ago. I justified this by saying that the transition from one year to the next was nothing special. After all, there are 11 other months that pass without any fanfare. And I left it at that.
But there is something undeniable about the end of a calendar year. Something that practically demands introspection and reflection. And by my estimation, such actions require course corrections. Marking the change from year to year with self-examination but no consequential change felt hollow.
Last year … I mean last last year … I started working through this and realized that, at least for me, the problem is in the wording of it all. The overused joke is that most people make New Year’s resolutions only to break them within days or weeks. And once a resolution is broken, that’s it. Because resolving to do or not do something is black and white.
“My resolution is go to the gym at least three days every week this year.”
For the first four weeks, you’re on top of it. Then – for whatever reason – you miss a day or two or three, and you’ve broken the resolution. You failed.
“I resolve to put $50 into savings each week this year.”
Again, you hit the first few weeks, but something comes up that demands that $50 the next week. Failed again.
“This year, I’m making a resolution to get organized and stay organized.”
By Jan. 3, you can’t find your car keys, and you brought someone else’s kid home from daycare. So much failure!
They’re setting you up for defeat. And once they’re broken, you can make new ones, but at least personally, that taste of failure is very off-putting. I tend to go on like the resolutions never existed in the first place.
So this year I did something different. Instead of resolutions, I set goals.
Goals are future-oriented, whereas resolutions feel like promises I’m trying to keep. Maybe it’s just me and I’m doing some weird, semantics-based dance to make it work in my head. But it works, and that’s the important thing.
There’s a world of difference between saying, “I’m making a resolution to read a wider variety of books this year” and “It’s my goal to read a wider variety of books this year.” At least to me. When October gets here, I’m less apt to give up on that goal than I am on the resolution.
“It’s my goal to write every day” is more forgiving than “I resolve to write every day.” One missed day means I lost my resolve, at least for that day, but the goal of doing it is still there and achievable going forward.
“My New Year’s resolution is to cut down on processed sugar” vs “It’s my New Year’s goal to cut down on processed sugar.” Which one do you bounce back easier from when you have a moment of weakness and sneak over the U.S./Canada border to Tim Horton’s for a couple of Boston Cream donuts? (Don’t judge me.) I know which one is better for me.
Anyway, the first day of 2019 is almost over. I haven’t picked out the book I’m going to christen the year with. But I did write this. And I haven’t been to Tim Horton’s … yet. But if I go, or if I decide to re-read Batman: Year One for the millionth time tonight instead of reading Jane Austen, there’s always tomorrow.
And that’s really the whole point of having a new year, right?