My resolution this year is to stop making resolutions for the sake of January small talk. I am fairly certain that most of the New Year’s resolutions I have made over the past 15 years have never lived to see the spring. My mom would probably call it pure laziness, and I would agree that my failure to adhere to previous resolutions is definitely due in part to a lack of motivation. However, I have recently found myself questioning the legitimacy of New Year’s resolutions entirely, if only to make myself feel a little better about my current situation and my past record.
Time is a social construct (and no, that’s not a direct quote from Jaden Smith’s Twitter feed); to me it seems so arbitrary that our motivation for self-improvement is never as high as it is at the beginning of some 365-day cycle.
If the majority of us stop caring about our resolutions at some point before the end of the year, we console ourselves with a probably-false promise that we’ll do it the next year.
I think it’s also important to note that New Year’s resolutions aren’t necessarily conducive to self-improvement. As complex and constantly-evolving human beings, we can choose to better ourselves at any point in our lives. In fact, we should actually strive for continual improvement that isn’t based on set points in time such as the beginning or end of a year.
Of course, I’m guilty of this myself. I would never resolve to eat more healthily around Thanksgiving break when I can just tell myself, “I’ll do it next year.”
But even though I haven’t explicitly made drastic changes to my life or to myself within the past several years, the sum of many subconscious decisions I’ve made in that time created huge differences in my life. I am much more comfortable and happy with who I am today than with who I was two years ago, even though at no point during this time period did I consciously resolve to become more self-loving.
The sudden radical change that we expect to come out of our New Year’s resolutions is also problematic. We aren’t made for that kind of immediate change, as my body ever-so-kindly reminded me on the morning it returned to school after two weeks of sleeping in. It’s not impossible to get long-lasting results out of New Year’s resolutions, but we should institute change in smaller steps over a period of time rather than suddenly subjecting ourselves to five days a week at the gym or no carbs, a week removed from no physical exertion and a bread-heavy diet.
Goal-setting is inevitable as a tool for productivity and progress, but instead of making New Year’s resolutions, it would be more effective and less taxing to make resolutions which concern individual months, weeks, or even days.
Nonetheless, I still fully respect and admire the decision of millions to make New Year’s resolutions for the upcoming year. Whether or not they will actually be fulfilled, well, I guess we’ll just have to see next year. But hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?