New Year, New Me… Yeah, Probably Not

I really love the concept of starting fresh each year — reinventing myself, making meaningful change — it’s powerful. In theory, New Year’s resolutions are great — not only do they force us to look back at what we’ve been doing and re-evaluate, but they also ask us to do better. Eating too much pie? Eat less. Gossiping behind your friend’s back? Don’t do that anymore. Is your home beginning to look like it belongs on an episode of Hoarders? Maybe clean that shit up.

Here’s the thing. Acknowledging our failings and committing to becoming better humans is good. It’s one of the few things we can do to make ourselves more tolerable to other people (and ourselves).

I think that what I find troublesome about yearly resolutions is that the whole thing feels too big. You’ve hardly taken a walk down your street for the past ten years, but now you’re going to go to the gym three times a week? Think about the last time you tried to do anything consistently for a month. A week? A day? It’s really hard to create habits. I’ve been trying to break my nail-biting habit for years. Waking up on January first of any year has never been enough to cure me.

So what actually works? Beats me. I recognize that it is really important to set big goals for ourselves since accomplishments move us forward. But in my experience, I’ve only ever reached goals because of one of the following reasons:

• I felt really passionate (nearly obsessive).
• I had to (My mom said I had to go to school, therefore, I graduated high school).
• I was too scared not to accomplish my goal (I trained a lot for the triathlon I did last year because I was afraid of drowning).

I guess the lesson here is that you’re not likely to stop eating pie unless you become passionately obsessive about how gross pie tastes (maybe join a pie hate group); your mom tells you that you’re grounded if you eat another slice (No phone. No friends); or you develop a fear of pie (It haunts your dreams. There may even be a slice under your bed right now).

So… that’s how you handle the big goals. You’re welcome.

In reality, we all just have to have our own reasons for creating and keeping resolutions. In my own life, creating much smaller, daily goals has worked out a lot better. I read somewhere that, before bed, some big CEO writes down three things she wants to accomplish the next day. I gave it a try, and I’ve been doing it on-and-off for a few months now. Here’s today’s list:

1. Take out recycling
2. Go to the gym
3. Text mom

I’m sure the CEO has far more lofty goals, but this level of commitment feels manageable for me (I should mention, we currently have a pretty big pile of recycling — this is no small task). I find that when I set these smaller goals for myself each day, I am way more likely to accomplish them.

Generally, the list is small enough that I shouldn’t have an issue getting through the tasks. Also, I usually only include one thing that takes up a significant amount of time each day. When I have a bigger goal in mind, I put more contributing goals on the list. For example, I want to do a longer triathlon this year, so I’ll probably start adding short distance runs and swims to the list soon. These will get longer as I get stronger.

This may not be the right approach for you, but it works for me (most of the time) — no big resolutions or plans to become a better me this year. Instead, I’ll just keep chipping away at my flaws a little more each day.

Good luck with the pie!

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