New year resolutions. A good conversation starter that could low-key pressure one to take personal resolutions seriously. One such conversation was a trigger for me though.
Never Underestimate Small Talk
‘What’re your New Year’s resolutions for 2024?’, I asked a friend when we were making small talk.
‘To be more wise and patient. To be a better listener.’
‘But those things will happen in due course, as life happens, and with age. Resolutions that can be measured really count.’ I was quick to pick his resolution goals apart to which he replied, ‘Oh! Then the usual, get fitter, lose some weight, etc.’
And then came the question for me, ‘What about you? What’re your resolutions for 2024?’
‘Me?’, I don’t know why I felt like I was on the spot. ‘Simple goals that I can achieve. New Year resolutions are overrated anyway.’ I made a quick reply to put an end to the conversation.
At the time I didn’t know why I felt pressured, like what I said about my resolutions will mean a commitment. And did I want to make a commitment? Did I really want to factor in the work required to achieve a goal I would set? And why do I feel so answerable to myself all of a sudden to a routine question?
This conversation happened sometime in mid-December 2023. I remember it was in the evening around 7 pm and a very routine day which should have been an inconsequential day, like so many in the past. However, this conversation, these questions stayed with me. It took root in my mind and I kept thinking about ‘New Years’ and ‘Resolutions’ as I was driving back home.
I felt sad that I had set so many resolutions over the years and had achieved just a few, fewer still within the timeframe of the year. I felt guilty that I had somehow made these promises to myself and not really taken them seriously. Something I would not have done if it had been another person I had committed to.
So, why was I so out of character when it came to myself? Why did I keep putting myself on a lower priority? Why was I so out of touch with myself?
Making a resolution is the easiest thing in the world. It’s just a string of words. Taking responsibility for these words is the hardest part though. Especially, if we say them to ourselves.
A vast majority of resolution-makers, including me, have fallen off the wagon before January ends. This happens because we either run out of the New Year steam, we haven’t really factored in our schedules when making the resolution, or the goal was too big, to begin with. And sometimes it’s a combination of all three factors.
New Year Resolutions: A Good Idea, or Is It?
New year resolutions often seem like a good idea on the surface, it sounds like an amazing first step towards achieving a goal and increased productivity (careful, it should turn into toxic productivity). However, it should be looked at as a journey, and the first step is just that, a first step, a beginning. One, however, must walk more than a step to reach one’s destination.
Speaking of which, let’s set goals that are doable. Walking towards something we can see makes it more tangible to reach. Similarly, setting a goal that you see yourself achieving is a great way to start.
But then again…
An Over-Detailed or Over-Simplified Resolution Does Not Work
Fitness or weight loss happens to be a very common resolution that sees gym memberships spike during new year’s. But then, what stops one from being consistent with working out? Why do most of us drop out of the gym in a month or two?
I know, I need to lose weight and get fitter but then I never made my goal tangible, break it down into smaller goals, or adjust my changing schedules to include the gym, fitness routines or anything resolution related.
One year, I simplified my goal, I only glanced at the stats on my smartwatch and focused on what was important, the routine. I took one day at a time, one exercise schedule, routine, even set at a time, one meal at a time; without thinking about the whole entirety of everything all at once, I found myself focusing better. I felt freer, rather unburdened as compared to when I had the pressure of the resolution standing like an oppressing, imposing prison guard. And I felt good, lighter even. The journey turned out to be joyful, something that I looked forward to each day. All I had to do was keep an open mind to adapting and also let go.
I have come to believe that we must have an open mind to change directions, and change gears even in the path we take to achieve what we have set out to do. Our needs, our routines, our moods, feelings and lives are constantly changing. And we must accommodate ourselves as well to adapt to the changes in our lives. When we integrate our goal-journey into our lives, we are invariably setting ourselves up for success, we are developing a positive habit. When something doesn’t work, it’s ok to pause, analyse why, adjust and adapt.
Isn’t that how we grow anyway?
The Guilt of the New Year Resolution
Sometimes we feel bad that we can’t really keep up with a resolution. Sometimes we feel guilty, perhaps deprioritizing it until it’s time to declare the next year’s resolutions.
Somehow, there is this shame that makes its presence felt, especially when we begin to give up. It’s something that we endure, the guilt and the shame, by justifying and making a mental note to do it later, which seldom comes.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. We are not designed to be projects, we are not made to feel good and turn perfect the minute we decide or say something positive or do a good thing. With human beings, it’s always a work in progress. It’s called evolving.
I have been wanting to get back into the reading habit. This was a 2022 New Year resolution. But somehow, reading at night, before bed meant falling asleep holding a book, barely two paragraphs in. I had given up several times because I was too tired. I often fell asleep just holding the book in my hands.
It was only later in the year when I had more time to myself on a weekend break, I decided to read when I wanted to and was able to. I wasn’t reading only at a specific time anymore but when I could. This change in attitude towards my goal and my approach towards time management around this task helped me immensely. I was nursing a book from January right up to October; with a new outlook, I’m four books in and am beginning book number five in January 2024. My schedule is hectic as ever, but I adapted, adjusted, and tried various time possibilities for reading, successfully integrating this habit into my routine.
I don’t feel guilty anymore. I feel good, glad that I ticked one resolution off my list.
More often than not, we are chaotic, discovering a rhythm that works with several trials and errors when we are determined to do something. In fact, this process works so well that the chaos turns systematic – adjusting, making minute adjustments to the ever-changing situation, every day, every minute.
Adding something to our routine may work for a while, but to make it a lifestyle change, integrate it into your mindset by making it more than a chore.
Life is More Than a Checklist
I was one of those people equating personal happiness with a checklist of achievements by a certain age. Not having achieved all that I set out to do by age 25, age 35, age nearing 40; I felt miserable at times, thinking that I am not at par with the norm. I would feel at a loss when I couldn’t achieve certain things in my career and relationship, feeling maybe I am not good enough. But life is not made of checklists.
What would you do once you have achieved something before a certain age? What’s next then? What if you don’t achieve something? Life goes on; it always has and always will.
Life is More. Much MUCH More. Vast, Wide, Long, Big.
I came to realise that attempting to contain life within a checklist is akin to trying to contain the ocean in a bottle. We end up confining ourselves to the rules that we make to ease things, forgetting that it is in our hands to improve upon the rules that we set for ourselves. The only thing we can control is the way we react to, adapt, grow and learn from our experiences.
Life is much more than a checklist of things to do, much larger than new year’s resolutions. These are but tools in your hands to improve the way you live, a means to an end, which you can adjust or completely redo to achieve your end goal, which is to live better and happier.
Stop Using New Year Resolutions as a Band-Aid
New year resolutions or any kind of positive affirmations should not be used as a band-aid to a problem we might be facing in our lives. When we set impossible expectations for ourselves and struggle or fail to achieve them then we invalidate ourselves; we deny ourselves the human experience. What remains are feelings of disappointment that are harrowing, to say the least. Add to that, denial of negative feelings like sadness or anger or negative self-talk would lead to feeling let down by none other than you, yourself.
We have become experts at gaslighting our own feelings and our experiences as if they were nothing compared to the bigger picture. When we express our loss of confidence in ourselves with words to ourselves, even in jest (self-depreciation often begins with jest) we do ourselves and our entire human journey a big BIG disservice.
You Are The Big Picture
It does not take much to be kind. Especially to yourself.
Yes, you need to lose weight or gain weight to attain a better level of fitness. Yes, you must sleep better, read more, write more, eat better, paint more. Of course, you must do what you set out to do. But you can do it with kindness towards yourself.
Make a conscious decision to give yourself gentler instructions and reminders, positive affirmations and rewards. Process your experiences and feelings and readjust your routines to better accommodate YOU.
Believe. BELIEVE in Yourself.
Many times, when we make a list of new year’s resolutions, however, deep down we believe the exact opposite. We may say out aloud that we will go to the gym regularly to get fit, we even take a membership and go a few times, but we know that come March, August, October or any other busy month, or a family commitment, a vacation plan, the flu or bad weather, we seldom follow through.
Saying one thing just for the sake of it or because it sounds right, but not believing in it will create dissonance. No matter how much you try, you cannot believe a lie, especially one that you tell yourself. This illusion will shatter eventually, taking you down along with it.
When I began believing in my resolve to read I could harness my determination to do so. My resolution transitioned from a goal to a conscious habit to a lifestyle change. My goal and my faith in it combined into something that drove me, fuelled me to achieve.
Beyond New Year Resolutions
New Year resolutions, although the trend, should not create negative pressure. It is a good first step to begin a mental shift, a new habit, and a change in our lives for the better. It works best when you believe in it, and keep it simple, achievable and adaptable without the stress of a deadline.
In fact, a resolution is not limited or exclusive to the New Year. We can make goals at any time during the year based on where we are in our lives. It is completely up to us to make this commitment.
But when we do decide to set a goal, let’s see it through for ourselves. Let us make a promise to ourselves to feel better, feel good and be content with our own actions.
We at the Feel Good Moments team wish you a very happy and feel-good 2024.