With 2019 looming, we are faced once more with the prospect of New Year’s resolutions, a paradigm indefatigable in its attempts to convince us there’s a better, more successful version of ourselves waiting for us just around the corner. Such an idea drives many to assert New Year’s resolutions with best intentions. We might be setting New Year’s resolutions to get healthier, to take up a constructive hobby like blogging or a sport class, or to be more driven in work or studies. The New Year is the perfect opportunity to embrace everything life has to offer you, and everything you can offer life.
The pitfall, however, is that many pick resolutions at odds with their character, dedication and lifestyle. The resolutions, rendered unobtainable by unrealistic ambition, leave us feeling disillusioned, defeated, essentially worse off than we were before we endeavoured to improve and elevate our lives. Oftentimes New Year’s resolutions defeat the object and leave us starting the New Year at an all-time low.
Here, I offer an explanation to the redundancy in the “new year, new me” phenomenon. At the mention of “new year, new me”, we immediately envisage a fantasy version of ourselves, who is us, but better. They live in the future where everything they touch turns to gold because, having reached the heights of success we consider impossible because we are not perfect like they are, they have got everything under control. Nothing ever goes wrong for the fantasy version of ourselves, because they are so disciplined, so motivated, so determined, that no mountain is too high, no hill too steep. Our fantasy selves can do anything, be anything, achieve anything.
The idea of our fantasy selves inspires us. This year will be the year things change, we say. Come the New Year, we realise what a huge undertaking becoming a “new me” is. No matter how relentless we are in our pursuit of fulfilling our resolutions – no matter how hard we grind, how much we make time for them – we never quite seem to fulfil them, reach our “new me”. This is because the resolutions are unrealistic: rather than reflecting who we are and what we want to do with our time, they reflect who we wish we were and what we wish we wanted to do. Eventually, it leads to feelings of inadequacy and nothing has changed except for our self-esteem. And this is no way for us to start our New Year.
New Year’s resolutions aren’t a quick-fix that transform you into a “new me” and change isn’t an overnight thing. The New Year’s resolutions that are really going to change your life are the ones that can integrate into your lifestyle and stay there in the months to follow, so that in years to come, when you look back, you’ll see the subtle shift the trajectory of your life took thanks to your resolutions. The difference between resolutions that will change your life for the better and ones that will change it for the worse is whether it’s one you want to complete: resolutions should come from want, not obligation.