A Fresh Take On New Year’s Resolutions

Whether you’re fond of the holiday or not, New Year’s tends to bring about a certain theme. Collectively, we all fall into a mood of reflection, determination, and inspiration for the potential of what the next year can bring. Even if we aren’t setting resolutions, it’s hard to escape that kind of thinking.

Especially with a year like 2020. Almost all of us can agree that 2020 was the hardest, grittiest, most unrelenting year of our lives. We could have never guessed the changes and upheavals that the year brought: a global pandemic, social justice revolution, climate change disasters — you know it all.

As we roll into this New Year, it’s almost like we don’t know how to say goodbye to the behemoth that was 2020. How do we look back on such a historic time? How do we reflect on something so massive, as to make resolutions for the new beginning of 2021?

We need to be gentle on ourselves this New Year. If resolutions are informed by the past year and inspired by the future, then we’re going to be taking a unique approach considering 2020. In this post, we’ll explore the nature of resolutions, and talk about how to set ourselves up for success in 2021. You can still become your best you in 2021, but perhaps that road looks a little different than it has before.

A Look At Resolutions

Resolutions have a pretty controversial reputation. On the one hand, the majority of us feel inclined to set them every year — 50% of us, to be exact. But only 19% of us actually stick to them long-term! 

Research predicts that most people give up on their resolutions by January 19. So all of this has us asking: are our resolutions as helpful as we think they are? Why is the follow-through so low, and what can we do to implement change for real this year?

We don’t have to lose hope: resolutions can still be transformative and useful. It’s human nature to cherish beginnings and endings the way we do at New Year’s, and resolutions are symbolic of that. There’s nothing wrong with resolutions — what’s problematic is our approach.

When Resolutions Go Wrong

There are some classic reasons why resolutions fail, and they all have to do with our human mind. It’s worth cultivating some awareness surrounding these limitations prior to setting resolutions. When resolutions come from a healthier, aware headspace, they’re more likely to stick!

Why resolutions fail:

  1. They’re unrealistic. New Year’s can get us fantasizing about the future — who we could be, and what our life can look like. There’s nothing wrong with a little visualization, but fantasizing can lead to setting resolutions that aren’t realistic or even healthy. We need to set resolutions that feel achievable. If they’re too lofty, we’re likely to get intimidated, discouraged, and then give up.
  2. Because of perfectionism. Did you know that, statistically, those who keep their resolutions long-term actually made a mistake in the first month? The difference between making or breaking your resolution has a lot to do with whether you hold yourself to a standard of perfection. You’re going to slip up, but that’s a sign of progress, not failure.
  3. They don’t account for change. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that change is to be expected. We can set a resolution, but we need to leave room for change. When things are rigid, change will break them. When they are flexible, they mold to change. It’s likely that after you set a resolution, you will need to revisit it and possibly adjust it. Again, that’s progress, not failure!

Resolutions After 2020

Resolutions tend to follow some common themes: losing weight, working out more, and saving money. They tend to be pretty hardcore, and ask us to push ourselves to an edge we’re not used to experiencing. 

But consider this: the entire year of 2020 was essentially us, pressed right up against our edge. So is the need for 2021 really more of that? Or might our resolutions need to be something different?

After 2020, we all collectively need to rehabilitate mind, body, and soul. We went through the grinder of change, and nearly all of us feel depleted from some angle. Instead of setting hardcore resolutions that pull from our already-empty energy tank, it may be time to set some gentle, more heart-centered resolutions.

This year, it could be powerful to set resolutions that are gentler. That focus on self-care and wellbeing. It may be uncomfortable to work with resolutions that ask us to do less, than more, but perhaps that’s where the growth lies. Here are some ideas for gentle resolutions this New Year:

  • Cultivate a meditation practice, or something gentle like restorative yoga.
  • Spend more time in nature.
  • Adopt a self care routine — invest in body work, or find new practices at home to nurture your mind and body.
  • Rest more: take naps, sleep for longer hours.
  • Stress less. This is a big one. How can you overcome your stress lifestyle?
  • Seek more connection.
  • Invite more creativity into your life.
  • Work with a therapist to expand your personal growth and joy.
  • Bring more nutrients and whole foods into your diet.
  • Hydrate often.
  • Release the activities and relationships that aren’t serving you.

How To Keep Your Resolutions

Let’s start by recognizing that implementing change is not an easy intention. As human beings, we are hardwired for habits and routines. Routines help us maximize our energy output, and consolidate our mental efforts. So making change is not only a mental game, but a physiological one as well.

What this means is that change is a process and it’s not going to happen overnight. The most important strategy for keeping your resolutions is recognizing that real change is a slow process, full of ups and downs. If we can really feel into this truth, then we’re more likely to find success.

Once we find ourselves in this mindset, then we’re well on our way. We can then practice these tips to help our resolutions last:

  1. Celebrate the small wins. Change happens in small steps. Instead of expecting your resolution to transform your life immediately, expect small steps of progress. As you experience those small wins, pause for moments of gratitude. Watch the slow shifts in your life, and your motivation will keep pushing you forward.
  2. Accept the mistakes gracefully. When you slip up, practice acceptance. Criticizing ourselves is like water on the fire of our motivation. If we anticipate the journey to be imperfect, we’ll face the bumps in the road and move forward. Making mistakes is our chance to step into self-love.
  3. Be willing to change. Here’s the thing: your resolution may feel great and relevant right now, but in three months, it may feel irrelevant and pointless. That’s okay. Be willing to adjust your resolutions, or let go of them if they’re no longer working for you. That’s not failure. It’s knowing yourself!

New Year, New You?

The New Year, New You line of thinking is a bit of a trap. Why? Because you are constantly growing. Chances are, the challenges of 2020 aren’t going to stop just because the clock struck midnight on December 31. You are not going to wake up on January 1 a new person, just because you set resolutions.

Our personal growth is ongoing. And even more than the changes we see in our life, personal growth is a mindset. Even if you succeed at all the resolutions on your list, you’ll only have a fresh batch appearing right after that. This is because evolution is constant — we will always have another layer of the onion to pull back.

This New Year does symbolically arrive as a breath of fresh air. We are collectively needing a new start, but we are the only ones who can give that to ourselves. We’ve never had such a need to restore ourselves, to practice ease, and to let go. No matter what this year looks like, there’s one thing we can know for sure: it will bring exactly what we need.

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