Forgetting New Year's Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions.  How many of us spend the time leading up to the New Year thinking of all the ways we want to change ourselves in the upcoming year?  Most of us spend ages planning and preparing for this magical time when the year switches over and suddenly it seems like we will have what it takes to tackle those icky spiders in our closets – the ones that we try so hard to forget about but which are as much a part of us as the skin we wear.

I say: Forget it.  Forget the entire idea of New Year’s Resolutions this year.  Crazy?  Maybe, but I have an alternate idea instead that I think would do us all even better, so please hear me out.

Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I propose New Year’s Victories and Goals.

When I think of the resolutions that are set each year, I realize that we are starting off the New Year with a focus on all the worst parts of ourselves.  Yes, it’s a good thing to want to better ourselves, but often these resolutions come from external ideas like wanting to lose weight or look better or get a promotion.  It’s a losing game to start out thinking of how flawed you are, especially when the ideals in many cases aren’t even relevant to you.  We set unrealistic expectations and then wonder why the vast majority of resolutions fail each and every year.  In fact, I dare you to think back to the resolutions you’ve made for the past 10 years and see how similar many of them were.

Instead of this, why not focus on what you have done right this past year and then find parallel goals for the upcoming year.  Look back at the past year and come up with the 5-10 things you did that you are proud of and that represent the positive changes you would hope to see in your life every year.  They probably have nothing to do with the resolutions you set last year, but instead reflect the really important things that matter to you on a day-to-day basis.  When you identify what’s really important to you, then it becomes easier to see the real goals you may have for yourself in the upcoming year.  You will also likely have more realistic expectations of what a goal should really look like.

The reason for this shift is twofold.  First, it is so much easier to change for the better when we celebrate what we have done right.  We need to celebrate our victories instead of consistently focusing on defeat.  This may seem odd coming from someone who has written on how we need to learn to fail, but the two are sides of the same coin.  We can’t just assume all is wonderful and hide from failure, but we also can’t just wallow in failure and expect to succeed.  Focusing on our victories allows us to feel good and also allows us to see what we did that enabled that success, hopefully allowing us to take the lessons and apply them to our next goal.

The second reason is to set the right example for those around us – particularly our children.  If we take a moment and think about what the endless focus on New Year’s Resolutions tells our children – especially ones that are societally-based, like losing weight – we might see that we are telling them that we struggle to accept the person they love so much.  As a parent, I want my children to feel that their love for me is validated.  I want to be able to tell them they are beautiful and wonderful no matter what and have them believe me because I’ve lived the same type of self-acceptance and love that I’m hoping for them.  It doesn’t mean not modeling change, but modeling it in a healthy and accepting way.  A way in which we celebrate what we’ve done and learn from it to better ourselves how we want to better ourselves, not how society thinks we should better ourselves.

So this New Year’s, you won’t see any resolutions at our house.  You will instead see everyone come up with five things they did great this year, five areas they can say they grew in and learned from, and then take those lessons to pick one or two areas they might like to apply the same lessons to in the year to come.  I’m hoping by changing the way we approach these things, we can all do better and feel better than we have in the past.

By Tracy Cassels

December 28, 2015