As every New Year rolls around, you can probably expect your Facebook and Instagram timelines to be awash with the unbridled optimism that typically comes with a New Year.
Ah, new year, new me, new start. Time to bring out the New Year resolutions.
In fact, you have probably already seen something like this:
Other common goals include eating healthier, losing some weight, picking up a new hobby, learning new stuff in general and maybe even being a generally less sh*tty person.
Which are all arguably meaningful endeavours. And commendable, of course.
But what I would venture is the new year just provides new opportunities to be disappointed.
Especially if one keeps getting stuck in the same yearly cycle of making resolutions and not keeping any of it.
“Oh no, never mind, I’ll try again next year.” Every year.
I’m not saying that people don’t put in enough effort to keep resolutions (maybe there’s a sliver of truth in this but who am I to judge?).
I’m also not saying that everyone who makes resolutions are sad souls who never get anything done.
There are plenty of people who make resolutions and actually keep to/accomplish them (great for these people!). There are also people who don’t (oh no for these people). That’s just life.
From what I have observed among my friends and family (sorry mum), this seems to be a rather familiar cycle for some:
- January is a time of hope! Excitement courses through your veins! You draw up a list of things you want to achieve in the year! This is promising, you think to yourself.
- A few months pass and you (somehow) have barely made any progress on the resolutions you have made. Meh.
- June rolls around and the startling awareness that half a year has already gone by propels you to scramble in a (rather futile) endeavour to get things going.
- By September, you have given up. It is too tough. There is no point. Anyway, it’s only three more months to another ‘new start’ so it doesn’t matter right?
- December is here again. It is time to reflect on the year and, well, resolve to do better in the next.
Why are we constantly setting goals, putting pressure on ourselves to achieve said goals within a period (that is, by the way, most likely entirely arbitrarily set), possibly feeling miserable over not being able to achieve what we intended to do, and then letting it slide by saying we will do better again next year?
What’s the point if this keeps happening every year?
Wait, making resolutions are a good thing!
I hear you. And I completely agree.
To be absolutely clear, I’m again not saying that you shouldn’t be making resolutions.
In fact, resolve away. Because goal-setting is an extremely important part of personal growth.
And there’s nothing like the hope of a new-and-improved version of you to really get yourself excited about yet another year of existence.
But in order for resolutions to be meaningful, experts recommend that goals be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. (For instance, “losing 5 kg in 2 months” is preferable to just “become thinner this year”.)
Notice how the recommendation is for goals to be time-bound?
Yes, time-bound. Not year-bound.
So here’s my question: do you really need to make goals at the beginning of the year and then confine it to a year?
After all, you could do some of these things in a month. Or 10 years. Basically, whatever time necessary to make said goal happen.
Also, if the goal is so important that you felt the need to write it down and tell everyone about it, it really shouldn’t matter when you start.
Why are we placing all this emphasis on January 1 — a technically entirely arbitrary date — when one could have started on August 31 (another entirely arbitrary date) — and both would be equally good dates to start?
Not just a whim
Most importantly, I believe that these goals should be things you really care about. Not just vague whims that you're willing to discard at the slightest inconvenience or discomfort.
If it's something that you have assigned adequate significance to, it's quite likely that you would commit to it for an extended period. (Like marriage. For some of you.)
This means you should not be giving up on your goal after 10 months because it is no longer possible to accomplish the task before the year is up.
Or you know, you could maybe resolve to make better resolutions?
Top photo adapted via Pexels.