Saying yes to (New Year's) resolutions

Sofia Chiscop writes about New Year's resolutions, and whether they are worth the stress.

Sofia Chiscop
5th February 2020
Image: Instagram @ KateRabjohns

We’ve all been there: it’s the 31st of December, you write your resolutions down, and you promise yourself that the next year you are really going to keep them. The following year will be your year. Then, January rolls around and memes about “the next year being yours” already appear.

Who am I to judge, though? I go from one extreme to another. My mom says that that’s because I am a Gemini, but I think that I find this masochistic enjoyment in making my life more complicated. From promising myself that I will quit sugar and Netflix to binge eating and mindlessly hitting “next episode”. From having an over the top skincare routine to washing my make-up off with tears. From Dry January to drinking at 11 am. I’m guilty of all of that.

However, I don’t think that New Year’s resolutions, or simply any resolutions, can be kept unless they are something that we really want. Sounds obvious, but do we actually do that? Did you really sign up for that yoga class because you genuinely think that you need it or because it just sounds hip?

You don’t necessarily need to set them because a new year starts.

That being said, even though I started by bashing this social construct of resolutions, I have a love-hate relationship with them. I used to make fun of sayings like “New year, new me”, but here I am, fulfilling my resolution by writing this article. Still, when it comes to resolutions, I think that we view them in terms of black and white. No, you don’t necessarily need to set them because a new year starts. And, no, just because you had a cigarette on the 5th of January, doesn’t mean that you need to postpone quitting smoking for the next year. I am a firm believer that you can change your life anytime you want, as long as you genuinely want it. 

However, I also believe that what drives us to change is being fed up with our own excuses. Not because it’s hip or because it sounds nice. Change doesn’t become available on the 1st of January, it is possible all year round. Still, I understand why resolutions are associated with the New Year as it brings about a certain feeling of hope and excitement. The distance between the actual self and the possible self (Markus, Nurius, 1986) does not seem as daunting anymore.

The process can also be surprisingly enjoyable.

Too often, we dream about our possible selves without acknowledging that we are the only ones that can put in the required effort to become them. Maybe effort is not even the right word as, once you work towards something you sincerely want, it does not feel like work anymore. Yes, starting can be incredibly hard, but the process can also be surprisingly enjoyable. That being said, for many of us, a new year means a fresh start, and with this fresh start, change seems inevitable. 

This does not mean that we have to change everything at once. However, the more changes you make towards your possible self, the more trust you gain in yourself and in your ability to keep yourself accountable. And when you know that you are working towards a better you, and you enjoy the process, resolutions do not even seem that necessary anymore.

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