A Meditation on New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions get a bad rap. I feel like when most people think about resolutions, they think of the comically unattainable goals that they or people they know (or have watched on tv) have set in the past and broken before January is even over. I read jokes like, “I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I didn’t become a better person”, and “I keep my expectations realistic for the year… no resolutions for me.” And I get it. Laying out my plans on paper can feel like I’m setting myself up for failure, especially if I’m listing goals that I don’t feel fully committed to. Somehow, it seems like the mere act of putting something down on paper should give it some magical property. Suddenly, I’ll drop 15 pounds out of sheer hopefulness. Magically, I’ll become a morning person. Effortlessly, I’ll master a new skill. And when those things don’t happen, it can be discouraging. I mean, I wish it worked like that. But yeah, it’s going to take some willpower.

There’s also the thing that the practice of making New Year’s Resolutions can feel cliche. And it is, really. But there are plenty of things that are technically cliche that are worth doing anyway. Things like blowing out birthday candles, kissing on New Year’s Eve, eating turkey on Thanksgiving. I don’t know about you, but I’m actively trying to detach myself from the notion that I can’t enjoy something simply because it’s popular.

Maybe it comes from writing strategic plans for work, but I feel that a lot of good can come from setting realistic goals and putting them down on paper. Full disclosure, I tend to make sense of most things in the universe through list-making, so resolutions are just an extension of that for me. Personally, I think my New Year’s Resolutions should basically be a strategic plan for my life. Where do I want to be this time next year? Ok, now what will it take to get to that point? By breaking big goals up into manageable tasks that lead to a gradual, life-style change, then maybe the goal I’m chasing will not only be attainable, but sustainable.

Here’s the other thing that I know about me: There’s nothing more paralyzing than not having direction. If I don’t already know what I want, then more than likely, I won’t do anything. This happens to me when I’m shopping all the time. If I don’t know what I want walking into a store, I’m coming home empty handed. I always need a game-plan first. By the same token, it also frequently happens that I know exactly what I want, but it just takes me a long time to find it. For me, that is preferable. Whether it’s an object I’m looking for, a career path, or a personal goal, I’d rather know what I’m searching for. And I guess that’s half the point of any list, resolutions included: sometimes I don’t even know what I need or want until I take the time to put it down on paper.

Here are a few of my 2016 resolutions:

PERSONAL GOALS:

  • Read a minimum of 15 books. Bonus points for every book after that. Keep a list.
  • Write the words that you need to write. Even if you don’t ever use them for anything. (This goal was inspired by episode one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons. Listen here.)

HEALTH GOALS:

  • Do yoga. Join a class. Do it at home with the YouTube. Just freaking do it already.
  • Get in 30+ minutes of cardio at least 3 days a week. Run, climb, gym, whatever.
  • Take care of your skin. This is the year to think about night creams. Wear less makeup (or no makeup) while you can.

SIMPLE LIVING GOALS:

  • KonMari/Cull/Simplify. Dedicate time to letting go of clutter. Make deeper cuts than ever before. Cut away until it hurts, and then do it again.
  • Continue to build an ethically made, minimal wardrobe. Add pieces from the Master List over the course of the year. (I will be sharing more on this topic soon! Just try to make me shut up about it.)

As I said, these are a few of my resolutions; this isn’t my full list. Some points are too personal to share just yet, and I’m actually kind of proud of that. It’s hard to write down goals for myself that are embarrassing or close to my heart. Some years, I have skipped out making written resolutions altogether. If I’m brave enough to get to the heart of why I never put anything down on paper, it comes down to fear. As a general rule, I’m deathly afraid of failure. I’m a textbook perfectionist. The fear that I will not be able to accomplish something, or that the finished product will not turn out the way I imagined it, can be debilitating. So, for me, it’s brave to put pen to paper and be vulnerable.

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This fear of failure is also why I break up my big goals into bite-sized pieces. Instead of “Get in Shape”, I have a heading of “Health Goals”, with a few smaller, sustainable goals bulleted underneath. I also like having tasks that I can cross off once I’ve accomplished them. This act of striking through the lines on my list is one of the single most satisfying things about list-making. It’s like a measure of my productivity. I could write sonnets upon sonnets dedicated to lists, but you get the idea.

Here’s the last thing I’d like to say about New Year’s Resolutions: just because we slip “New Year’s” into the title, doesn’t mean that all resolutions must be written before January 1 or else. It’s not cheating to write them in January. Or February. Or in pieces as I go through the year. Or at the beginning of each month. Or whatever works. The entire point is writing them down. And then revisiting them. Maybe revising them. But ultimately, using them as a blueprint to grow. Maybe it makes me a romantic or something, but I think I can become a better person — or at least a more accomplished, fine-tuned version of who I want to be — in a year’s time.

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