Ah, yes, New Year’s resolutions. As we edge towards a new year, many of us feel the pressure to redesign ourselves to reflect some sort of profound self-improvement, with common targets including more regular exercise, losing weight, learning a new skill, quitting smoking, or saving more money.
Rooted in various religious traditions in the Western world, if followed devoutly these resolutions are overall a good thing. Once upon a time, people made promises to their Gods at the start of each year to return borrowed objects and pay debts and, in the medieval period, knights took a ‘peacock vow’ at the end of the Christmas season to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry.
But regardless of one’s religion, motivations, and the individual nuances found therein, it is fundamentally important to reflect properly upon self-improvement and consider how we can all put our goals into practice.
The pressure to radically change our more negative behaviours and habits can seem impossible or overwhelming, especially in the current climate as our lives are continually disrupted by enduring periods of isolation.
In addition, our modern ‘24 hour culture’ doesn’t always allow us adequate time to come up for air. Nowadays, discussions surrounding our resolutions are almost said in jest, with the underlying implication that they aren’t really able to be actualised.
However, there is definitely still a place for them. As a society we need an opportunity for rebirth and renewal; to put the struggles of the past behind us and finally thrive within a world that resembles normality (even if the Omicron variant is casting an ominous shadow over the future).
So, here are three key tips to help go about achieving your goals.
Setting too many unrealistic resolutions will set you up for failure. Therefore, try not to be naïve or over-ambitious with the targets you set and manage your expectations.
By extension, try to avoid being vague or ambiguous. Do some thorough soul-searching to discover what you need to work on. It is better to devote proper energy to a smaller amount of tasks than half-ask various, so prioritise which goals you need to focus on and put in place a realistic roadmap to help achieve them.
And crucially, don’t expect total resolution from your efforts. It is easy to be overly-idealistic and expect that your problems can be solved entirely, but realistically it’s about managing certain issues and evolving into a more functional person overall. Don’t go into your journeys expecting a quick fix.
At first it is daunting to think that we can rewire our minds and abandon our comfort zone. But if we are to achieve anything productive, the harsh truth is that we need to make a leap of faith and have courage.
This isn’t to deny that managing setbacks isn’t tricky. It absolutely is. You can devote hours of emotional energy into something but see no immediate payoff, but the real challenge is keeping that discipline, structure, and mental resolve to see things through.
The challenges you face right now may seem insurmountable, but having a hard word with yourself every now and again can help to drastically improve your lifestyle habits.
Be kind to yourself
Always remember that you can’t simply reverse deeply ingrained habits overnight. Achieving your goals isn’t a headlong race to the finish line but a daily process of self-reckoning. Staying constantly motivated doesn’t come naturally to everybody, so just keep checking in with yourself and take time to revaluate your approach if things feel too difficult.
Journaling is an invaluable tool in this, as it helps to chart your progress and thoughts. Failing that, be sure to reach out to friends and loved ones for that extra boost or motivation. As much as New Year’s resolutions are a personal journey, making your loved ones aware takes the pressure off just that little bit.
So, who needs ‘em?
The answer, in short, is everybody. Regardless of the social context or the size of the goal, New Year’s resolutions are an absolute necessity as they offer a gift for hope, something productive to work on, and allow us to start fresh.
Hopefully, this article has provided some perspective going into 2022 and good luck with your respective journeys!