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Why I Hate New Year’s Resolutions (and What I'm Doing Instead)

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I hate New Year’s resolutions, folks. There. I said it.

And I don’t understand why people enjoy setting themselves up for failure in this way. Further, I really don’t understand why people do it over and over again every year. I mean, have you ever managed to successfully accomplish your resolution? If you said “yep!” I’m mentally sticking my tongue out at you while shouting “liar, liar pants on fire!” or you’re trying to pull a fast one. One of those my-resolution-is-not-to-have-a-resolution resolutions. No cheating, cheater.

So. I hate New Year’s resolutions and here are my reasons:

1. Because most people struggle with their resolutions.

Let’s all be honest here. How many people do you know who said on New Year’s Eve/Day, “What a year! I killed that resolution!” Are you thinking… zero? I sure am. I think the vast majority of people forget their resolution before the first month is even out.

2. The idea of handling a daily resolution for 365 whole days is honestly absurd.

Daily resolutions are a vicious cycle to me because you’re probably going to remember your resolution. “But isn’t that a good thing?” you ask. Absolutely not! Why? Because all it takes is one miss and you’ve dropped the ball. And if you’re like me, once that ball has been dropped… let’s just say that from then on, my ball is more like a bouncy ball. <Boing> Handling daily resolution. <Boing> Hit the floor again. <Boing> Got that resolution going again! <Booooiiiing> Oops, there it goes again. At some point — around Valentine’s Day, I’d say — that ball ain’t bouncing anymore, my friend. I’ve gone and kicked that sucker under the fridge where I’ll find it during a deep-cleaning session. OK, I don’t deep clean. I’ll find it when I move out of I even take the fridge. However, by that time, your little daily resolution is etched into your brain. So for the rest of the year you get to fail at it again and again. Which leads me to point three.

3. If you’re coping with my symptoms of depression, failure is a major trigger.

The little person in my head is one mean witch, but most especially when I perceive anything in my life as a failure. She doesn’t yell or scream, my witch is insidious. She whispers and it sounds something like this: 

“You’ve done it again, Cat, another let down you can announce to the world.” 

“You KNEW you wouldn’t accomplish your resolution. You never accomplish ANYTHING.”

“You’re a disappointment. Again.” 

And the worst one that always gets me right in the feels:

“Look at the example you’re setting for your daughters. You couldn’t even make it three weeks before missing a day and now, six weeks into the year you’re just dropping it entirely.”

That negative self-talk is a vicious cycle, too. Once it’s begun, itty-bitty “infractions” become huge issues. Huge issues make the negativity more cruel and more frequent, ramping up my depression to equal a series of upcoming Really Bad Days.

Many days, it can be extraordinarily difficult just to get out of bed in the mornings, let alone write in a journal to fulfill a daily resolution. It can be extraordinarily difficult to eat at all or stop eating at all (depending on how your depression impacts your food intake) let alone make three healthy meals a day. And on Really Bad Days, I won’t even try.

So how do I partake in the New Year’s festivities when I don’t want to double-dare my depression to play hide-and-seek?

Get inspired with forgiving goals.

See, the Oxford Language Dictionary defines the word “resolve” as a “firm determination to do something.” For me, that means “resolving” to do something implies an all-or-nothing mindset. Throw that out the window, friend. The Oxford Language Dictionary defines “goal” (beyond the sport-playing version, of course) as “an aim or desired result.” While that may be just semantics, I believe shifts in semantics assist in shifting my depression. A desired result is just not the same thing as a firm determination. In my thoughts, there’s so much more leeway in goals.

Did you catch the part where I said forgiving goals? It’s your “resolution,” isn’t it? Play with a safety net, already! Instead of saying “daily resolution” I use phrases such as “as often as possible” and “whenever I can.”

A real-life example that isn’t New Year’s resolution related: A few months from now, I’ll celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary with my husband. He and I wrote our own vows for our wedding ceremony. It was important to me that we made honest promises to each other that we intended to keep. We kept our vows to ourselves until the ceremony except for one that stated, “If I should break any of these vows, I promise to listen, forgive and move forward in our life together.” My husband understands that I don’t intend to break our vows, but it soothes me to know we built forgiveness into our marriage from day one. 

So build forgiveness into your goals. I’m not saying to dump on your goals at every opportunity. I’m saying that everyone struggles. Forgiving yourself makes it so much easier to dust yourself off and keep going towards your goal.

Finally, instead of setting your resolutions, get inspired. After all, what is a goal other than constant inspiration? So make it something inspiring on purpose. Instead of resolving to hit the gym three times a week, go with, “I’m going to try to park farther from the store entrance to get extra steps in my day and any time I follow through, I’m going to come up with as many ways as possible to tell myself that I’m freaking awesome every step of the way.”

One of my absolute favorites for myself is “whenever I notice that I’m getting stellar service of some kind, I’ll ask if a manager is available and compliment the staffer for it.” Notice the “whenever I notice” written in there. And where’s the inspiration? Well, have you ever asked your restaurant server to please get the manager? When I was a waitress, that triggered immediate oh-crap-freak-out mode. Inevitably, the manager strides up and says something like, “I’ve been told you needed to speak with me?” That’s when you get to say nice things.

I aim to share what specifically made the service stellar. They kept your drink full? They made sure your four substitutions were handled? They were so warm and friendly that you shared stories about your dog and they laughed with you at the funny parts? Share that! Nine times out of 10, the manager says something along the lines of, “I’m so glad you shared that! It’s honestly so nice to hear good things!” And the manager goes and tells that service member happy things. If I can afford it, I try very hard to increase any tip and some places offer stickers or buttons or medals or even raises for enough patron compliments. You walk away with all the warm fuzzies and so do they! Those warm fuzzies? They are my inspiration.

So get inspired with forgiving goals this year and throw out the implications that come with resolutions. And if you need help making the conversion, leave a comment here so I can help.

Getty image via Creative-Family

Originally published: December 28, 2020
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