For or Against: New Year Resolutions

I was delighted to see a complete absence of “new year, new me” posts this year, and I didn’t even see any posts making fun of the “new year, new me” mindset. Assumedly, we’ve just moved past that joke of a moto. But why?

I don’t want to blame the pandemic for every change I observe, but it’s definitely a possible cause. After two years of uncertainty and disappointment, are we hesitant to set renewed goals? Are we simply self-aware enough to know that we can’t become a whole new person as of January 1st?

Nonetheless, every year, you pull out that blank notebook and scribble out many dot-points. You swear that you’re going to drink more water, lose some weight, eat vegetables, face your fears, start journaling, quit your bad habits, start your business, etc. But ultimately, most resolutions are abandoned by February.

That’s a big part of why I don’t love the term ‘resolution’. I mentioned my distaste of the term in my last blog post and thought I should elaborate. In essence, the term ‘resolutions’ comes with a set of conditions that makes them almost always unattainable and sets us up for failure.

Resolutions are by nature restrictive, negative, unrealistic and uncompromising. They’re bound to fail because they don’t produce a positive response in your brain. They’re usually based on things you find unacceptable or unworthy about yourself, not on things you wish to achieve personally.

There’s definitely been this trendy push toward self-care in the last few years. The recent success of self-help books, yoga classes, crystals, the normalisation of mental health, and so on are clear examples of this perpetual state of self-betterment we all find ourselves in. We want to be more productive, more attractive, more successful. In many cases, we aren’t really doing this because we want or need to. A lot of the time, we feel obligated to. Often, the best thing to be is actually appreciative and accepting. You’re already great, and that’s important to acknowledge. What you have is more important than what you’re after.

In fact, ‘wellness culture‘ in its nature is often self-contradictory, classist, colourist, sexist and the product of late-stage capitalism in its prime. Lorde made superb commentary about this phenomenon through ‘mood ring’ last year. I think the concept of new year resolutions is a particularly poignant example of how this concept can be damaging.

I’m not saying that new years resolutions don’t ever work, but they’re certainly not sustainable. You can set and achieve goals year-round, and it’s far more sustainable to make weekly/monthly resolutions and plan day-to-day when and how you’re going to achieve them. Short term habits build a lifestyle through which you have a better chance at achieving your goals. That said, the trajectory of your life does not have to be goal-based. We forget to take in our current lives when we’re always looking forward.