Think Twice About Your New Years Resolution

The idea of setting and achieving personal goals is a great one, and a natural part of life. Growth is both inevitable and healthy for becoming a better person, but a lot of people find making formal goals intimidating, and rightly so! For many, New Year’s acts as the perfect time to make a change—it’s only one goal to focus on, everyone is doing it, and it makes you feel good to set a goal for yourself. But what if your New Year’s resolution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? I choose not to follow this annual tradition for various reasons, and I think it’s important that everyone consider whether their resolutions are truly benefitting them—or whether they’re just hindering you from progressing in other ways, and making you feel guilty if you don’t achieve them. Don’t give up on your New Year’s resolution immediately, but think twice about whether this tradition is helping or hurting you in the long run.

New Year’s resolutions are often set only because people feel like they should set them. Seeing other people looking to better themselves is a powerful incentive, and no one wants to be left out. Besides that, sometimes people can be guilt tripped if they DON’T set a resolution! So the pressure to set a goal is there, and many people can feel self-conscious if they don’t make one, because it seems like they’re not looking for personal growth. However, goals set out of “obligation” are often lofty and unrealistic, because they aren’t stemming from genuine desire for change. Thus they are harder to accomplish and often fail within the first couple weeks or months of the new year. How many people have you heard attempting to cut out alcohol or go to the gym every day only to fail by mid-January? A lot of these goals are set solely because it’s the New Year, and not because the goal setters have planned to change themselves otherwise.

For many people New Year’s resolutions will inevitably fail, whether it be days, weeks or months into the New Year. Oftentimes this failure does not reflect inadequacy on the part of the goal setter, but rather stems from unrealistic goals, or goals without a long-term plan. Regardless of the cause, this failure appears to reflect directly back on the goal setter and their “inability” to achieve a personal goal. This makes people feel guilty and culpable—wrongly, in many cases. Failing is not necessarily a bad thing, because life isn’t perfect and failure provides an opportunity to learn. But if every year you don’t meet your resolution or forget about it altogether, and you end up feeling like a failure as a result, it’s doing more harm than good. Try to realize when a habit has become harmful and stop it, for your own sake, regardless of what others might say if you don’t fall in with the rest of the crowd. There’s no shame in learning what works for you.

Healthy change should be constant in life, especially when it concerns personal growth. For some people, focusing on the New Year’s resolution limits their ability to make changes for themselves at other times of the year, because they push off their larger goals until January 1st. Focusing all effort on one goal like this can also inhibit your ability to develop a healthy cycle of growth throughout the year, because you get used to shooting for long-term, “life changing” goals rather than day-to-day minor goals and goals that require slower progress without immediate results. Celebrating the little successes is important too, and they can often go overlooked when you are focused solely on the major goals. By focusing so much on your failure to go to the gym five times this week, you don’t notice the weight you’ve lost so far, or the better sleep and healthier eating habits you’ve developed. More than a single, arbitrary “New Year’s” resolution, a better option for developing healthy personal growth habits is to set goals throughout the year and celebrate successes rather than mourning losses. This creates the perfect environment for welcoming any unexpected changes that may occur in your life, as you’ll feel more willing to adapt and shift your goals if they’re smaller, more manageable, and genuinely meaningful to you.

Self-reflection and personal growth are healthy processes to becoming a better, happier person. But a lot of the time, New Year’s resolutions are not the way to go if you’re looking for positive change. They are often based in obligation rather than genuineness and thus fail or are forgotten about, making you feel guilty, and ultimately keeping you from developing a healthy personal growth cycle. New Year’s resolutions do work for some, but the large majority of people who never question whether they should set these goals for themselves and ultimately suffer as a result. So if you’ve made a resolution for 2017, take a minute to reflect on it and decide whether or not it’s the right decision for you. If at the end of the year when December 31st rolls around you don’t want to commit to going to the gym every day or losing 20 pounds, don’t! And if you want to make a change in your life, do it—don’t wait for January 1st.