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New Year’s Resolutions – What They Are and What They Aren’t

“New year, new me.”

This is a phrase that circulates society during the beginning of every year, without fail. It is a phrase that comes with infinite hopes and dreams. It is a concept many wish to see become reality.

It is also a mindset that leaves many disappointed and dejected when things don’t turn out the way they want it to. 

I used to rely heavily on a new year birthing a new me. I had ready a list of New Year’s resolutions with a ticking clock; I had a schedule as to when I wanted to achieve them. Some were simple, like hanging out with my friends more during the summer (a resolution I’m glad I didn’t make last year and did not make this year). Others were more challenging, like making the year as stress-free as possible by focusing on myself and letting nothing distract me. Those were the resolutions I made for 2019, and I managed to achieve one out of the two things I listed here. 

I remember being really hard on myself when I couldn’t check off a resolution as “something I accomplished this year.” I questioned whether I could’ve tried harder or if doing something was the reason I didn’t reach my goal, causing me to regret said action, even if I enjoyed it. As I grew older, though, and learned how to navigate life a little better, I realized a few things about what New Year’s resolutions are and what they are not. 

What they are:

1. They’re flexible

Many changes don’t happen overnight. For example, results from working out don’t usually show up after a few days. In fact, sometimes it takes a few months before you start seeing any physical progress on your body. That doesn’t mean you’re not moving forward. The fact that you have a workout plan that you’re executing is progress enough. Maybe you’ve even started drinking more water or feeling healthier. Those are milestones, no matter how little they may seem to you or anyone else. Your resolutions need space to settle and bloom, just like you. By being inflexible with them (and yourself), you may be pushing yourself toward frustration or, worse yet, failure. Slow and steady wins the race, and you’re playing the long game. [bf_image id="6qsm3pg7wkw2zxscfr7k7"]

2. They’re achievable (for you)

Everyone is capable of different things at different times. Just because one person can do something now doesn’t mean another person has the capabilities or the resources to do so. Having a resolution that you can do with the “you” that you have now is essential to eventually achieving it. Circumstances change, and life may throw a wrench or two at your plans. Being kind to yourself and thinking of what you can handle physically, emotionally and mentally will save you from a lot of avoidable burden. Let’s face it: change can be challenging. You don’t need to add more stress into your life. 

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3. They’re for you, period

Resolutions aren’t meant to be weapons against your worst enemies or tactics used in order to fit in. If the only reason you want to pursue something is for someone else, you might have a hard time getting there. Intrinsically motivate yourself with the good you want to do. Make sure you infuse your path toward your resolutions with love and care. There needs to be a personal desire to change in order to achieve the best results. Following the crowd will only get you so far. What if you realize midway that this isn’t really what you want? Take your time. Think it through. Make a plan for you.

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What they aren’t:

1. They aren’t a way to forget

I was guilty of this in the past. I would try using my resolutions to reinvent myself. I hoped that, by achieving them, I could use them as bandages to hide past mistakes, failures and regrets. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, though. The reason you are who you are now is because of your experiences, good and bad. Suppression without confrontation may cause you to repeat cycles you want to break. In order to be more successful in not repeating something, you have to hold yourself accountable and face yourself head-on. There is no shame in making mistakes. You’re human; stumbling is unavoidable. Besides, the satisfaction and joy you feel when you look back at your “failures” because you aren’t where you were then anymore is worth it. 

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2. They aren’t always big

Resolutions don’t have to be flashy. They don’t even have to be life changing. Resolutions can be as simple as washing your bed sheets every other week instead of once a month or continuing to wear your retainers two nights a week even though you hate how they feel in your mouth. Yes, you can decide to change your whole wardrobe or lifestyle, but if you manage to change those “little” things, make sure to congratulate yourself. Victories are victories, no matter what they look like. As I stated previously, change can be challenging. You’ve managed to overcome one of those challenges. I’m proud of you.

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3. They aren’t a trend

Trends are unstable. They come and go as they please. Sometimes, a “good” trend will be considered an “unsavory” trend later on. By mindlessly picking resolutions because it’s the newest most-talked-about thing, you fail to take yourself into account. Is this really what you want or did the hype surrounding it push you toward making it your resolution? Will you still be motivated to accomplish it even after the excitement surrounding it fades? You don’t want to waste your time on a resolution that you only wanted to do because it was popular for a moment, especially if it is something that requires a lot of effort and time. Focus on you! Find resolutions that best suit you, in every way possible. You’ll thank yourself in the future.

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Now that we are in the tail end of January, where celebration is a memory and normal life has resumed, it’s important to keep this cheatsheet in mind when pursuing your goals for the year. It’s okay to let some of those resolutions go. It’s okay to have no resolutions at all! Wherever you are in the “new year, new me” journey, now and in the future, remind yourself that you are valid. You don’t have to justify your existence to anyone.

There is a quote that the founder of Brown Girl Therapy (@browngirltherapy), mental health therapist in training and former journalist Sahaj Kohli shared on Dec. 30, 2020 that I’ll leave here for everyone to dwell on: “It's the few days before the new year when we're encouraged to think about starting fresh and/or doing more. But instead, I want to encourage continuation … There are always going to be endeavors and relationships and situations that can't be tied nicely with a bow and packaged away to indicate a clear end. This isn't an indication of failure or falling behind. Progress is not linear, nor should we hold ourselves within the confines of this idea that growth is solely an upward trajectory ... Grant yourself permission to figure it out as you go. To reevaluate. To change your mind. To be human ... Things roll over — sometimes messily, sometimes unfinished — into a new year and that's a reflection of a life being lived. Keep on keeping on. Carry yourself into the new year and when the clock strikes midnight tomorrow — no matter how you feel or where you are or what you've finished — know that you are enough.”

Samantha is a second-year student studying Psychological Science at the University of California, Irvine. When she isn't writing for Her Campus, she is juggling her studies and other extracurriculars, jamming to her shuffled Spotify playlists, or stress-pinning to her boards on Pinterest.
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