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2021 is here. A new year, a fresh start, a new cycle. With the many events that transpired over the previous year, now is the time to pause, reflect and move forward. 

With the advent of a new year, New Year’s Resolutions are on everyones’ mind. As popular as they are, following them is an entirely different beast. 

Setting your goals and intentions for the new year is an incredible feeling. As amazing as accomplishing a goal feels, it’s extremely disappointing when we aren’t able to achieve them. Setting a goal and accomplishing it are two different things and new year’s resolutions are a prime candidate for disappointment down the line. 

As someone who expects a lot from themselves, falling short of my New Year’s Resolutions was non-negotiable. I would always begin the year with concrete, high expectations and I would always fall short of them. That failure would prompt an even more demanding set of resolutions and the cycle would begin again.

Eventually, I realized that setting New Year’s Resolutions simply was not working for me. I still wanted to have some intentions for the year, so I stopped coming up with resolutions and began making small, manageable goals for myself. If I wanted a large goal, I would break it up into smaller parts, each one with a general deadline.

Rather than specific resolutions like “go to the gym five times a week,” they are more like “take ten minutes to stretch at the end of the day.” Having concrete, yet small and attainable intentions made them easier to fulfill. Since they were smaller, I wouldn’t feel like I failed to meet my goals. This way, I’m able to meet my realistic expectations as well as gain a sense of fulfillment. 

I’ve also adopted a philosophy for setting my intentions 一 no more negative wording. Keeping them open-ended allows for more flexibility and open interpretation.  

“Go to the gym five times a week” turned into “move for 30 minutes every day.”

“Eat at least five servings of veggies” turned into “eat some veggies with your dinner.”  

While these are bite-sized goals, having the bar set low gave me the opportunity to expand on them if I felt like doing so that day. I was more likely to do more if I gave myself more leeway. So maybe the thirty-minute walk in my neighborhood turned into an hour stroll on the beach or eating one vegetable a day turned into having a salad with my lunch and some broccoli with my dinner. I love setting low expectations and surprising myself in the future. 

Over the last few years, I’ve learned that language really affects your mindset. Having a positive, open-minded outlook on the year instead of setting restrictive resolutions has helped to shift my priorities. I felt freer and my goals became something I wanted to do, not something that I felt like I had to do. 

This article is not just to bash New Year’s Resolutions. I think that they are a great way to frame the upcoming year, however unrealistic they tend to be –kudos if you are one of the people who are able to keep them! For those of us, myself included, who are unable to keep organized, hate falling short, or set too high expectations, setting a loose framework is a more attainable and healthier alternative to concrete resolutions, and something to consider doing this year, or in any future year.

I am a senior at the University of San Francisco, majoring in Biology and minoring in Biochemistry. I am from Monterey, California where you can find me kayaking, surfing, or baking!
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