Movie cliché or actual useful tool?
I don’t know about you, but where I’m from, writing down your New Year’s Resolutions is seen as something out of an American romantic comedy. I don’t know why exactly, but it has a whimsy unrealistic Hallmark feel all over it.
This is the third year in a row that I write down my New Year’s Resolutions, and as foolish as I feel when I share it out loud, it’s actually been one of the main things that have helped me accomplish most of the goals that are making sense in my life right now, be it financially, professionally, vocationally, emotionally, from my everyday life- you name it.
I get it, setting goals at the beginning of a year might seem easy and exciting enough, but do you actually follow through with what you set? Don’t your goals change as the year goes by? Isn’t it exhausting to always be trying to accomplish something?
Honestly, I’ve always seen these types of lists as a great way to organize my thoughts and visualize them. It honestly is easy for me because I’m a natural planner, and my mind is always planning my next step (this has, naturally, good and bad consequences, but I won’t get into that now) so putting these ideas to paper in the form of pragmatic ways to achieve them is the most obvious choice for me. I understand this may not be the case for everyone. However, as much as I am a planner, I also don’t take these lists at face value. They are merely a way to help me, but I don’t pressure myself in order to achieve all the goals I set. In fact, the goals I usually don’t achieve tend to be the easiest ones.
In my opinion, three of the most important things when it comes to writing your New Year’s Resolutions are 1) be realistic 2) customize the list to meet your needs 3) be patient with yourself.
When I talk about being realistic, my point is to not lose sight of our day-to-day lives. It’s important to contemplate that you will not be able to read six books a month if you’re working two jobs, finishing a degree, and exercising everyday, for example. Also, it is very rewarding to take into account your everyday life when you write these resolutions, so that you can also achieve simple goals. For example in 2019, one of my resolutions was to get new plants and get them to survive, since I was a new plant mom and every time I got a new one it died on me. It felt really good to accomplish that resolution even if it was really simple, because it’s still something I really wanted.
When I talk about my resolutions with my friends, I observe that they are really the only people I have met that in a certain way also write down their New Year’s Resolutions. However, they do it in a way that fits their needs and their needs only. Their way wouldn’t work for me, as I am sure that my way wouldn’t work for them. For example one of my friend sets very abstract goals for herself in a systemic fashion, and she divides them into quarters. My other friend sets two really big and important goals a year. My other friend doesn’t write them down. And so on.
Finally, what I think is the most obvious thing that makes people recoil from New Year’s Resolutions and view them as unachievable and Hollywood-like, is the fact that you, in theory, have to attain all these goals in exactly a year. Listen, I thoroughly understand this point. However, hear me out– we all know a year is a measurement of time that is pretty arbitrary when it comes to obtaining your targets, and that’s why you don’t have to achieve every single item on your list before December 31st. January is the Monday of the year, it makes perfect sense to start there- fresh off holidays, and in my southern hemisphere-case, about to start a new school year, etc. But that’s just the kick-off, an incentive to start over, but it doesn’t mean that the process necessarily has to end exactly a year later. In my case, I’ve accomplished many goals from years past in the years that have followed (mostly emotional goals that are not as manageable as tangible ones). And that is completely a-okay. Sometimes you wish you were at a specific time in your life and you simply aren’t. Expressing it on paper and not being able to achieve it in 365 days does not mean you are a failure. It just wasn’t the right time. And when the time does come and you can cross it off your list, even though several years may have passed by, the satisfaction will still be huge.
In my personal experience, New Year’s Resolutions, as dumb as they may be regarded, as alien as they might be to most of the people around me, are the way I have found to check in with myself and my long-term plans as a professional, a person, a friend, an adult… and so forth. I can’t recommend them enough, if you do them your way, and your way only.