New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t A Sham, You Just Don’t Know Their Value
Progress isn’t linear anyway, especially during these dire times
Don’t worry, the title isn’t targeted towards you.
If anything, it’s targeted towards me.
That’s right. I’ve always viewed New Year’s resolutions as a sham.
Up until last year, whenever the ball dropped to signal the upcoming new year, I never made new year resolutions. I had a few goals in mind, sure, but I refused to consider them resolutions.
I always found them unnecessary and oftentimes performative, only then to be reinforced and fueled by researchers and studies that show that a vast majority of people don’t adhere to their resolutions by Valentine's Day.
As a result, not only do we shy away from them ourselves, we tell others to not make them as well. We give them alternatives of what to do instead, then call these options more realistic.
This is something I didn’t realize I was doing to myself for as long as I can remember.
And it’s a mistake that I’ll never do again.
These “unnecessary” resolutions saved me.
The resolutions that we make and attach to the new year is something that I never thought I desperately needed.
The truth is, making New Year’s resolutions saved me from falling further into the pits of despair.
As the countdown to the new year commenced during New Year’s Eve, I felt a deep sadness in my heart. When I started to reflect on the past year, my mind was only flooded with nothing but struggles during this pandemic.
First, I thought about being unemployed, how I couldn't land a job despite trying my best. I remember getting excited about finally finding a job that was right up my alley and that I felt qualified to apply for, only to be met with rejection. Over time, I grew discouraged, and I felt that each application I sent and each interview I went through no longer held any promise.
The only thing that helped me push through was the fact that I was consistently running. Running served as my outlet, and it helped me clear my mind and nourish my soul. But that too was taken away from me. In the middle of the year, I was diagnosed with gout and it happened to affect one of the biggest things that I needed to run with — my big toe. Since then, I’ve been told to patiently wait for my foot to return to normal and to running condition, but I still have no idea when that will happen.
Furthermore, in order to pay for these medical bills along with everything else, I became desperate and took on part-time jobs though they required a lot of manual labor. After each shift, my whole foot affected with gout would be screaming in pain. I grew anxious and worried knowing that I was making it worse. I started to dread going to work, but I had no other choice.
Despair and hopelessness started to creep up in my field of vision. So instead of continuing to find a better job, I used that time instead to take care of myself, feeling like I needed to squeeze out each minute that I’m not working to bring some type of joy into my life.
The worse part of all this is that even as I write all of this now, I feel like all I’m doing is making excuses. As a result, I avoided catching up with friends or talking to my family. I was too embarrassed to talk about my situation due to the fear that I wouldn’t be understood. I kept all my struggles bottled inside with nowhere to go, and I felt isolated and alone.
So then, at the end of this past year, when it felt like everything in my life was going wrong, when it became painfully clear that my mental and physical health was taking a massive toll on me, and when I felt like finally giving up on and cursing the one life I have, there was but only one silver lining that helped me take a deep breath: the new year.
Because as we go into the new year, it’s another opportunity to have a fresh start.
Now you might be like me who would’ve said recently, “Bonkers! You don’t need the New Year to have a fresh start, it’s all in the mind!”
That might as well be true, but the keyword here is, another.
The thing is, it’s human nature to set goals at the start of something new. In fact, we do it all the time. Think about it.
When we move to a new place, we set expectations of perhaps creating positive lifestyle changes. When we get a new job, we set new goals for ourselves to be excellent at our work. Or when we start a new relationship, we tell ourselves that this time, with hard work and effort, it will be different and more amazing than our previous ones.
All these examples hold one common promise: the feeling of having a fresh start.
The power of a clean slate.
We all understand how starting on a clean slate is a powerful feeling. It feels like you were reborn, and although everything that happened in the past is ultimately what brought you to the situation that you are in, you feel like you can leave it all behind to create a better present and future for yourself.
In other words, the feeling of having a fresh start is a powerful driving force behind change.
But what would happen if it’s taken away?
It would be a huge shame.
First off, we don’t have many events that happen in our lives that can give you the feeling of a fresh start. There are a few such as starting school, moving into a new house, perhaps opening up a new business, or even having a child with your spouse.
But the chances of having these events are few and far between. The only consistent events that happen in our lives that could give us that powerful feeling of a fresh start are when we turn a year older or when it’s a new year.
Ultimately, if we take the latter away by reprimanding and criticizing it to the point where people no longer believe in making resolutions, we’re also taking away their chance to create some type of change in their lives.
And if they fail, so what?
It can only end in two ways.
One, after following their resolutions for a while, they might really like it. They form good habits to reach their goals, and they become happier as a result.
Or two, they might feel like it’s unrealistic for them to keep following them for whatever reason, so they drop it entirely. As a result, their situation and their feelings toward it become more or less the same.
This is the kicker: both scenarios are valuable.
Now, this doesn't mean that the results of both scenarios are the same. It just means that although both scenarios reached very different results, they are both valuable experiences.
At the very least, even if people don’t follow through with their resolutions, they gave themselves a fighting chance and a learning opportunity to create some positive change in their lives.
To put it simply, if a new year gives them a fresh feeling or an excuse to make resolutions in order to improve themselves, help them get back on their feet, or make themselves feel like it’s not the end of the road, why not support it? And if they fail, so what?
To me, this is valuable progress.
At this moment, I don’t know if any of the resolutions that I made on New Year’s Eve will come to fruition at any point this year.
But it’s not the point. What matters is that right at this moment, making New Year’s resolutions has empowered me to keep going and create a better tomorrow, even if the odds are stacked against me.
The feeling might fade away as time goes by, sure. But it’s merely the beginning, a stepping stone to make positive changes in my own life.
This is why although New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap, they deserve to be placed back on the table — at least as an option.
Let’s encourage and support those who are wanting to make some type of change in their lives at the start of the new year. Let them embrace the feeling like they have a fresh start and make some progress in their lives even it’s only a little. Who knows? It might just help them get back on their feet.