The new year has begun and the world is filled with a renewed sense of hope for what is yet to come. The days seem a little brighter, the air a little lighter and the wonderland we call home sparkles in a way it hadn’t only days ago. In the haste of all the new possibilities, we rush to make ourselves better with life-altering resolutions and promises of personal growth.
However, the gloom of potential failure stalks us like we’re its prey. Always just one short step behind us, it waits for the inevitable moment that comes every year: the dissolution of our resolutions. The moment we break our promises to ourselves and make excuses in order to allow ourselves to feel better about our shortcomings.
The questions are: Do we fail because we lack the ability to follow through, or do we set ourselves up for failure by choosing resolutions we know we can never achieve? They are both good soul-searching questions and there are no wrong answers because the answers are as personal as the resolutions themselves.
A year ago in a moment of deep self-reflective brilliance, I decided that the only resolution I’d make was to make no resolution at all. Even as I said that out loud to myself I realized I had failed before I began. After all, by resolving to make no resolutions I had broken my no-resolution promise. It was all very clear then and I put the irony aside to test this new theory.
After much research, three things became clear: about eight per cent of people complete their resolutions, goals/resolutions are important, and consistency is key. As much as the eight per cent success rate is depressing, it’s also a relief to know that the other 92 per cent are not alone. We have all been there at the bottom of a resolution mountain looking up with optimism only to realize halfway to the top that we should have picked a shorter mountain. All we were looking for was a win and a little self-improvement, but we got a little too excited and overestimated our capability.
The wins are what make resolutions so important. They’re why we set resolutions in the first place, but then we self sabotage by aiming too high or by not focusing on the finish line. I found that through my year of no resolutions I learned to set small goals instead. I knew the end game and broke that down into little steps so that little wins were happening throughout, propelling me forward towards the outcome I had been looking for all along. When all else failed, consistency really was the way to keep going. Losing your footing is alright but you have to keep trying, keep climbing, and keep fighting for what’s important to you. You see, the destination might be where you’re going, but the journey along the way will teach you more than the feeling of accomplishment at the end ever will.
At the core of it all, we are just trying to live a life well-lived, and any steps we take along the way to help us to feel accomplished and successful. Those same steps give us value and make us who we are. In the end, my no-resolution experiment ended up being more of a multi mini-goal year and exactly what I needed. It was a low-pressure and high-result time that built up my self-esteem. It also snowballed into a tradition of yearly and monthly goal writing that I can look back on every New Year’s Eve with fond memories of the lessons learned and battles fought.
So maybe, if you are part of the 92 per cent that struggles to keep your resolutions, you can look at things from a different angle. There is nothing wrong with trying something new and shaking life up a bit. Isn’t that what resolutions are all about? Besides, what’s the worst that can happen? Another failed resolution? As Erin Hanson and Winnie the Pooh have both famously said, “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
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