New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. Where once it was the done thing to loudly proclaim “NEW YEAR, NEW ME” from the rooftops, now all the cool kids are shunning goals and resolutions in favour of a slower pace of life. “Who needs goals?” they Tweet. “2019 is all about self-love and accepting myself just the way I am xoxo.”
“Of course, it doesn’t help that the New Year has been hijacked by the diet and weight loss industry to make us feel bad and spend money”
I get it, I do. New Year’s Resolutions are often arbitrary and meaningless. There’s no need to wait until January 1st to set a new goal, and there’s nothing magical about the start of a new calendar year that means you need to — or are even capable of — enacting huge, sweeping changes across your life. Indeed, making grand New Year’s Resolutions is all well and good — but when 80% of us have broken our resolutions by the second week of February, it’s easy to see why people are starting to call bullsh*t on the January tradition.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the New Year has been hijacked by the diet and weight loss industry to make us feel bad and spend money on their programmes and smoothies and gym memberships. Last year, the three most common resolutions were exercise more (38%), lose weight (38%), and eat more healthily (32%), perpetuating the persistent and harmful idea that losing weight will make you a better and happier person.
But while New Year’s resolutions are likely pointless and definitely yet another way for Capitalism to make us spend money in an effort to ‘fix’ ourselves, for me, the 1st of January will always be a time of great joy and motivation. While December is spent in a joyous haze of booze and cheese and fluffy socks, January represents a chance to take a metaphorical deep breath and shake out the cobwebs.
Last year, I was a bit over-ambitious with my New Year’s Resolutions. I set myself a lofty 16 goals and resolutions for 2018, and stuck to or achieved precisely two of them. Of the remaining twelve, four lasted until the middle of June, one dropped off the list by the middle of March, four lasted a grand total of two weeks, one is back on the list for this year, and two never even got started at all.
To most people, that would be a failure — a reason to cry off New Year’s resolutions once and for all. But for me, I look back on those goals and feel a huge sense of pride and accomplishment. The two goals I achieved were the two I cared about most, and the rest, well, I gave them a go — or if I didn’t give them a go, I did something else in their stead. I might not have ticked everything off my 2018 list, but I had a stab at it and that’s got to count for something.
“The new year is a fixed point where we can take a moment to breathe and assess and remind ourselves of the person we want to be.”
Those who dismiss New Year’s Resolutions as a load of tosh generally fall into one of two camps. On the one hand, there are those who think they’re futile and pointless, because everyone always fails them anyway. On the other, those who believe self love and confidence trump making lists of ways you need to improve. But for me, both these camps miss the point.
New Year’s Resolutions aren’t about setting yourself up for failure or listing all the things that are wrong with you. New Year’s Resolutions are an annual reminder to take stock of your life and think about the things you want. As a species, we’re busier and more stressed than we’ve ever been. Throughout the year, we’re all too busy working and hustling and keeping up with our friends and families to really sit down and think about where we’re going. The new year is a fixed point where we can take a moment to breathe and assess and remind ourselves of the person we want to be.
No, you don’t need an arbitrary date to do these things. No, you (probably) don’t need to totally overhaul your entire life and personality. And no, you definitely don’t need to lose weight or join a gym or eat less chocolate to be a happier or better person.
But if you can look at January 1st as a time to reset — a time to put all the sh*t of the last year behind you and plough on with a renewed sense of hope and optimism and motivation — then more power to you, my friend.