Reevaluating New Year’s Resolutions

notebook writing Spencer Selover
© Spencer Selover

Lately it seems like New Year’s Resolutions have acquired a bad rap. As December came to a close, my inbox was full of newsletters extolling the death knell for the annual tradition and citing the hype around “committing” to unrealistic goals as responsible for our failure to live up to them. But I’m not sure overinflated expectations are the only culprit. 

Frankly, I can only speak for myself, and I’m lazy. I wish I could tell you otherwise, but I am. When I tot up all of the goals, both big and small, that I’d like to meet in the new year, I do genuinely want to be that person—the person who practices ukulele and commits to active language learning and hits the gym and consistently saves money to be able to travel as much as possible and blogs regularly and starts a podcast and finishes her short stories and hits all of her academic research targets and finishes her novel and gets her pitches accepted and and and….

But I’m not that person. At least, I’m not the person who can accomplish all of that and remember to take out the trash, prevent the dishes from forming a grody pyramid in the sink, and vacuum up all the cat fur taking up semi-permanent residence on my floor. Toppling off the pedestal of Best Intentions is inevitable, and when it happens, crushing disappointment is there to make sure I give up in despair rather than pick myself back up and try again. 

Last year, in an attempt to defeat the annual influx of crushing disappointment, my New Year’s Resolutions were a combination of the very vague and major tasks I would have to do anyway. While I did feel the rush of supreme satisfaction as I checked off items on my list, I didn’t feel the way I usually do when I crush a task that’s elective. Sure, finishing my second master’s thesis, passing my soutenance, and applying for a PhD program were major goals. But they weren’t optional. The vague New Year’s Resolutions were even less satisfying (when I write vague, I mean nauseatingly vague things like “More joy”).

Still, every single year, I can’t help but come back around writing out my New Year’s Resolutions as December winds to a close. In 2020, I’m drawing on a few new keys to success: keep the list succinct, the targets clear, and be sure that each item could under the category of strictly optional. After all, if you have to do it anyway, is it really a resolution?

With the end of January looming, I can’t help but feel I might be onto something this time. After breaking my seven resolutions down into actionable steps, I’m proud to say I’ve made slow but steady headway on my goals. While we don’t instantaneously enter the new year with a blank slate as the clock chimes midnight on the 31st—let’s be real, people—there’s still something to be said for optimism, setting smart goals, and consistency. Still, it is only January…I’ll let you know how it goes.

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions for 2020? If you have any tips or tricks on following through, I’m all ears. Drop a comment below!

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