Consistency is key
I’ve never set a New Year’s resolution.
I’ve entertained the thought of setting one. I’ve even gone as far as writing down the many ways in which I could improve my life if I so chose. Eating healthier, being more active, using my phone less, saving money, reading more, flossing regularly, etcetera, etcetera. However, writing them down for this article doesn’t make any of these goals any more attainable for me. I’ve always needed a plan to aid me in accomplishing my goals and setting new habits.
What does using my phone less even mean? If my current screen time on my phone is three hours per day and I lower it to two hours, does that mean I’ve accomplished my resolution? What if I told you I opted to use that extra hour I would have spent scrolling on Instagram, scrolling on my computer instead, in favour of the bigger screen? Vague resolutions have too many loopholes and you can bet that, in my laziness, I’ll find an excuse to skip the day.
After skimming the internet, I found that most people give up their New Year’s Resolutions by the beginning of February. Other sites put the date even earlier in the year. A study by the running and cycling app Strava labelled Jan. 19 as “Quitter’s Day”, indicating that most New Year’s resolutioners stop logging their activity before even reaching the end of the first month of the year. In my opinion, 19 completed days pale in comparison to 346 days of business as usual and aren’t worth the hype.
On a personal level, I have a few complaints for Resolutioners. As an avid gym-goer, I dread the first week of January, when the number of memberships seems to increase exponentially and there’s not an open machine in sight. Fortunately and unfortunately, this will not be a problem in 2022, with the most recent COVID-19 lockdown preventing anyone from going to the gym. For the sake of everyone else, can resolutioners please start staggering the starts of their fitness kicks to keep the gyms at a manageable level of occupation?
This brings me to my next point: what makes Jan.1 better than any other day to start a new habit? The whole idea of New Year’s resolutions places an enormous amount of stress right at the beginning of the year. We’re all recovering from the holidays and suddenly, we’re expected to make major life changes in the name of self-improvement. Since the entire month of December seems to be devoted to planning what you’ll improve on in the New Year, it’s almost safe to assume that some resolutioners spend more time planning their resolutions than actually sticking to them.
Imagine all of those wasted days in December that could be devoted to developing resolution-worthy habits to end the year off on the right foot, rather than resolving to start the year off that way. Alternatively, you could even start on July 1, six months away from Jan. 1. Or maybe April 16? Oct. 26? June 5? These days all have the same potential as the first day of the year for being the first day of a new habit, yet they all get ignored.
Despite everything I’ve said above, I’m not totally against goal-setting or encouraging healthy habits. If New Year’s resolutions work for you, go for it. But if you happen to join the Jan. 19 Quitter’s Day club by missing a day (or two, or twelve) of your resolution, just know that you can start again on Feb. 1 (which happens to fall twelve days after Jan. 19).
Counterpoint: Start the year off on the right foot
Over the years, people have started to romanticize the idea of New Year’s resolutions. So, why is Jan. 1 such an important date for us, in terms of establishing year-long goals? Is it because it represents a fresh, brand-new slate? Do we think that when the clock strikes twelve, we immediately get to hit the reset button on all the bullshit of the past year? Do we somehow reemerge on the other side with our souls cleansed? Does it help us cope with the sadness of not being where we want to be?
For whatever reason people choose, New Year’s resolutions offer that little kick-start we need to finally get our lives together.
Over the course of my young adult life, I have definitely set more than my fair share of resolutions. But, like most people, I’ve followed them for the first month or two, and then lost motivation to continue if I deviated off the path the slightest bit.
I find that New Year’s resolutions are a way to motivate myself to be the best version of myself and a way to quantify my goals. I don’t see them as “New Year’s resolutions.” They’re more like goals that I want to achieve in my future — and not just short-term goals, but long-term, hybrid resolutions, if you will. As John Heywood says, “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, But They Were Laying Bricks Every Hour.” In order for our goals to come to fruition, we need to be consistent about them, do a little each day, and also be realistic about our capabilities. Everything in moderation — consistency is always key.
As a good friend once told me, “a resolution must address an issue.” So, when I establish a resolution, I think about the issues I want to tackle this year. It is human nature to never be quite satisfied with oneself. Greedy in nature, we always want more and more. So, instead of thinking in such a consumerist manner, I try to approach it differently. That way I’m not setting myself up for failure and massive disappointment. Here are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to establishing said New Year’s resolutions/goals:
- Visualize and manifest what you want. Consider creating a vision board.
- Set up realistic goals and be patient with yourself throughout the process of achieving them.
- Be consistent with it. Try to do a little each day. If you do miss a day, don’t give up. Pick up where you left off.
- Organize yourself and stick to a schedule.
- Have a support system. You could pair up with a friend so you can keep each other accountable.
- Rush into things by overwhelming yourself with an unrealistic number of goals. That way, you can avoid getting discouraged and giving up prematurely.
- Compare yourself to other people.
- Restrict your vision to merely achieving your “end goals”.
- Consider resolutions as a once-a-year kind of exercise.
- Just have them in your head. Consider writing them down and sharing them with your friends and family, if you feel comfortable.
These are just a few examples of what I like to keep in mind when I am setting my goals. What is important to remember is that you aren’t alone in this. Despite the fact that this is mostly an individual exercise, there is nothing that prevents you from setting your goals and making a vision board with your best friend. I did this, and in the end, we ended up inspiring and motivating each other.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you don’t have to get all of your shit together on Jan. 1. As I said, it’s a work in progress. Congratulations for taking the first step. Now keep showing up, be kind to yourself, acknowledge your shortcomings, and push through!