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Broken your New Year’s resolution? Don’t give up!


New Year’s resolutions: many of us make them, and a majority of us seem to end up breaking them. I don’t even remember if I made a resolution at the beginning of 2012 – if I did, I doubt I kept it. But this year, I decided to make an effort and wrote quite a long list of resolutions, which can all broadly be summarised as “utilise the time you have”. A big part of that involved waking up and going to bed at a reasonable hour (with nights out as an exception, of course). I find that if I get up at seven or eight I can do so much more with my day, compared to waking up at twelve and then staying awake till three in the morning.

However, I’ve already failed! In the month we’ve so far had of 2013, I’ve ended up sleeping in for maybe a third of it. I’ve failed at other parts of my resolution too; I’ve procrastinated and generally wasted time.

But I don’t see this as an outright failure. This is because for me, this isn’t some sudden change I expected to happen as soon as they let off the fireworks at 00:00 on the 1st January 2013. Instead, I’m trying to see my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 as a process.

It is the way in which New Year’s resolutions are perceived as something that you must change about yourself the second the New Year rolls in that makes them so impossible to stick to. For a lot of people, their resolutions are going to involve changing months, even years worth of bad habits. If you’ve pledged to eat healthily then of course you’re going to cave and eat pizza at some point, because up until the beginning of that year you were used to just eating pizza whenever you wanted to.

If we see New Year’s resolutions as these static, immovable things that we must stick to religiously from the first day of the year, then when we do inevitably break them, it means we just give up completely. But then that means because you had one pizza, you’re not going to make the effort to eat healthily for the rest of the year; or because you stayed in bed instead of going to the gym that one time, you’re not going to exercise for the rest of the year.

The times when we do break our resolutions should be seen as stumbling blocks, rather than complete failure. I’ve learnt from the times I didn’t manage to get out of bed in the morning and I now put my alarm across the room so I have to get out of bed to turn it off (although now I seem to have developed the habit of getting out of bed, turning it off, and getting straight back into bed – I may need to work on that!). More importantly, having this goal has motivated me to get out of bed on the days that I have managed to wake up early. It’s helped me stop scrolling through tumblr and motivated me to actually do some work on many occasions. Despite the many times I’ve failed so far, I am still making progress.

Of course, there’s something quite alluring about the static fail-once-and-you-quit resolution. It means you can try and be a “better” person, but you don’t have to sustain that energy and effort throughout the year. But I don’t want to treat New Year’s resolutions as an exercise in collective failure. I actually want to be a more productive person, and if I really want to, by the end of 2013, I could have learnt the new habit of waking up early, of not procrastinating, of really utilising the time I have. But the only way I stand a chance of accomplishing that goal is by first accepting that I won’t always succeed at the beginning of the year.

So here’s to seeing New Year’s resolutions as a learning curve and to not giving up because of initial failures, to working towards breaking bad habits and to actually being happier/healthier/more productive/a snappier dresser/whatever you want to be in 2013.

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