At the beginning of 2017, I made a very ambitious list of New Year’s Resolutions—to be exact, I wrote a list of 30 resolutions. Some resolutions were daily habits; to journal every day, for example. Some were spread over a longer period of time, but were still specific; I wanted to maintain a certain GPA, read a certain amount of books and make a certain amount of progress on various projects.
Other resolutions were more thematic (and therefore inadvertently ambiguous). One simply read “Read the news more.” Resolutions like this one didn’t have tangible outcomes attached to them, making it challenging to objectively say whether or not I achieved them. For the most part, I achieved my resolutions. One that I didn’t meet was my reading challenge; I wanted to read 52 books this year. I had every intention of following through with that resolution, but school overtook my reading time and I ended the year having read 43 books.
In addition to loving to plan things, I’m also big on reflecting. As I reflected on the fact that I didn’t meet my reading goal, a strange thought occurred to me: I didn’t really care that I hadn’t met it. Fifty-two books seemed like a significant number, since it averaged out to one book per week. But it didn’t mean much to me; I didn’t have a significant motivation for wanting to complete the challenge. This thought made me wonder if my list of 30 resolutions was a list that, while looking great on paper, didn’t have a lot of relevance to my everyday life.
So in 2018, I’m trying something different. I have a few specific goals and a few more ambiguous plans for the year. But, by and large, I don’t have a concrete list of New Year’s Resolutions. I know my list of goals are technically New Year’s Resolutions. But I wonder if, by calling them “goals” and not “resolutions” I might feel more positively about the notion of trying to achieve a goal, and feel less pressure about fulfilling a resolution.
As I mentioned earlier, I love to reflect. I used the last pages of my 2017 journal to reflect on the year. Did I achieve my resolutions? What were the best moments? The worst? What did I learn? Thinking about all of my memories from the year, I concluded what I already knew to be true—that 2017 was an amazing year for me. On New Year’s Eve, writing in my leather bound notebook, I felt so fortunate to be entering 2018 surrounded by great friends and family, with lots of exciting opportunities and experiences on the horizon.
At some point during my time reflecting, it occurred to me that, if I really was starting off the new year in such a good place in my life, I shouldn’t really need to make a drastic list of resolutions, anyways. Why, I wondered, should I make another list of 30 things to do to improve my life, when my life is already pretty great?
Of course, you can be in a good place in life and still seek to improve—continual self-improvement and lifelong learning are important. But clearly, from my list of 30 resolutions last year, I tend to view New Year’s Resolutions as a way to make big, sweeping changes. (And judging by all of the gym advertisements that are suddenly popping up, so do a lot of other people.)
I don’t think we should use the new year as a reason to suddenly improve our lives—if we’re unhappy with something in our life, we should resolve to change it, whether it’s June or January. And if we’re happy with our lives, then we shouldn’t worry about completely reinventing ourselves for the upcoming year. If we’re not truly invested in our resolutions, then they really are just words on paper (which may cause us more stress if we’re not achieving them, even if they’re not really important in our lives).
My 2018 resolution is, in effect, to focus less on making big changes, and more on the things that already make me happy with my life. I have a suspicion that I’m going to like this a lot better than my list of 30 resolutions—but only time will tell. One thing, though, is for certain: I’ll be back here next January, writing about the effectiveness of my “no resolutions in 2018” resolution. Stay tuned!