About a year ago, I welcomed 2020 by writing an article about New Years’ resolutions and tips on how to see them through. With 2021 here and in full swing, I couldn’t help but look back on it and wonder what kinds of resolutions I could set in order to improve myself for the next 12 months. I considered one of the tips I gave: make my promises simple and avoid an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. However, while brainstorming on resolution ideas, I found myself feeling unmotivated and even discouraged. I constantly asked myself, “Do I really have to make a resolution this year? Why on earth would I want to place this burden on myself when I left the last year feeling so tired and exhausted?”
The answer, of course, is ‘no’. You do not have to make a New Year’s resolution this year and no one, not even yourself, should pressure you to do it. However, this sentiment holds true now more than ever. ‘Tired’ and ‘exhausted’ doesn’t even begin to encapsulate what all of us went through in 2020. The prolonged and still on-going stress has caused many of us to feel trauma, whether due to losing a loved one to COVID-19 or feeling overwhelmed at work. Even the first few weeks of 2021 have been extremely stress-inducing and we still have a long way to go in terms of recovery. Suffice to say, we all need a break and don’t need the pressure of keeping up with resolutions looming over us, whether it be coming from others or ourselves.
Rather than focusing on improving ourselves this year, whether this is to be healthier, more productive, more skilled, etc., I believe we should redirect our energy and focus on healing. After all, we need to learn how to get back on our feet before we can take the next step forward and say ‘new year, new me’.
“But Nyle,” you may be thinking, “what if I still want to work on improving myself in 2021?” If so, hats off to you — wanting to improve yourself is always an admirable thing to do! And I definitely understand. I too was swept up by the promise of ‘new beginnings’ and wanted to learn everything and anything on January 1. However, do not overwhelm yourself and think you need to change or improve this coming year.
If you would like to set resolutions, I would again encourage you to focus on making these resolutions about healing and recuperation. Make these yearly pledges about self-care or updating your own self-care routine. Perhaps this is the year you start meditating for a few minutes every day or start a gratitude journal to help ground yourself in the good amidst all the chaos. Even when we’ve made it past this pandemic and have begun to move forward, these self-care and self-regulation skills will still be an invaluable practice in your daily life.
On the other hand, if you’re still looking to make resolutions that focus on skill-building outside of self-care, I would suggest rephrasing the resolution so it can feel achievable and you can cut yourself some slack. For example, let’s say you want to learn a new language this year. Instead of saying, ‘I will learn a new language this year’, think of saying ‘I will start learning a new language this year’. With this new phrasing, you put emphasis on the achievement of starting something new instead of completing it. While you may not gain immediate fluency and confidence in learning a new language this year, the mere act of finding the time, energy, and encouragement to begin something is an accomplishment in itself.
And don’t get me wrong — I’m not patronizing or belittling tasks to make them more manageable. There is a struggle involved with finding the best way to learn a language and starting from there or finding the most suitable workout routine for you and starting from there. The important thing is you found the motivation to do something new amidst the circumstances you’ve been dealt with.
At the end of my article from last year, I ended with the quote that said, “some years are for growing, but this one’s for blooming”. However, this 2021, I say that this year is for healing. Much needed healing in fact. While the start of 2021 doesn’t promise that everything that happened in 2020 will suddenly and magically disappear, we still shouldn’t give up hope or lose sight of opportunities to grow in the new year. One thing we should especially keep in mind is that growing doesn’t come overnight or in a day. Take your time and take it slow if you must. And then, when you’re ready, bloom.