It’s that time again; time when gym memberships hit a yearly high. It’s time for health food sales to go up, and cigarette sales to go down. It’s time for all of our good intentions to manifest as New Years resolutions. It’s time to get in shape, stop eating poorly, stop smoking, stop cursing, start going to church, start being more involved with your kid’s school more actively, stop, start, stop, start.
I don’t like our traditional approach to New Years resolutions and I don’t practice them because I don’t think they work. Firstly, I don’t believe they work because we tend to have an “all or nothing” approach to resolutions. It’s quitting bad habits cold turkey, or adopting new healthier habits all at once in one full sweep. That doesn’t work because it’s unrealistic. It takes humans, on average, about sixty six days to form a new habit to the point of it becoming automatic. If we set a New Years resolution with an absolute mentality and have setbacks within the first two months of the year, most of us tend to throw in the towel because we view ourselves as failures and really “what’s the use?”.
This leads me to the second reason that I think traditional New Years resolutions are a bad idea; because they are approached with a negative thought process. We look at our lives, assess what we think is good or bad about ourselves, and decide to take action on “fixing” all that is wrong with us. Constantly judging ourselves in this way is very unhealthy and setting a resolution in this mental state is setting ourselves up for failure because once we have one little hiccup in our quest for betterment it will re-enforce the negative self image that we’ve already established by deciding to fix ourselves in the first place. I believe it’s much healthier for us to set goals for ourselves, instead of absolute resolutions, and then to take baby steps toward the end desire so that we can celebrate small successes. If we frame our desires in a positive and attainable way such as “I want to have an overall healthier lifestyle by the end of the first quarter of thIs year” we empower ourselves, because when we choose the salad over the fried chicken we can feel good about our decision. When we choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator we can feel good about our decision: We can celebrate the small successes and encourage ourselves to keep going towards our goals one baby step at a time. However, if we frame our thoughts in the “resolution” mindset that we’ve all become so accustomed to, which sounds something like “I’m going to start going to the gym everyday. I’m going to stop eating fried foods.”, the focus is more that of self-judgment and on all that we perceive is wrong with us and how we need to fix it. It’s also a very “absolute” way of thinking where everything is either black or white and there is no room for any gray in between and I’ve not really witnessed many areas of life that work with this mentality. The way we frame our thoughts has everything to do with the outcome of our day to day lives and so when we shift from the “all or nothing” resolution mentality to a “baby steps” toward a goal mentality it can make all the difference in the world to our successes or failures.
It isn’t bad to want to improve ourselves. In fact, I believe if we aren’t growing we become stagnant and we should always be pressing on towards our best and higher selves, but I also believe the best way to get to that state is to go easy on ourselves, celebrate the good (no matter how small), follow your bliss, find joy and happiness in the mundane, and have fun along the journey. It won’t all happen overnight and it isn’t supposed to. Let’s all support each other going into this new year and see it as a time for a newly defined resolution; a resolution that embraces small failures as nothing more than bumps along the road of life and celebrates small successes as graduations to the next level of achievement. And instead of beating yourself up, have fun with life and the journey toward the destination. Here is my newly defined resolution for this year: “I am going to start defining my success by how much fun I’m having while pursuing my best self possible!”