It’s the fifth of January. 2014 is officially and definitely in full swing. The greatest procrastinators among us may have given themselves until Monday to begin enacting all of the lofty resolutions made in a carb and sugar-filled state of holiday enthusiasm, but for most, the process of attempting to make said resolutions a reality has begun. If you’re anything like me, you already hate it.
Now, if you’re the type that regularly succeeds in bringing to life all of the great changes inherent in the kind of resolutions specific to a new year, congratulations! You also probably change your oil on time, buy stamps before you actually need to mail something and don’t actually have anything you hate about yourself when you look in the mirror. This particular set of musings is not for you.
It’s for the rest of us. The ones, like me, who have started many years with a “to do” list of things running the gamut from lofty professional goals to finally getting rid of longstanding unhealthy habits. Some years I have had long and detailed lists, others it has been a single epic priority – and nearly without fail, I don’t succeed in accomplishing them. I don’t think I’m alone in this, given how little mention there is of New Year’s resolutions until it is time to make the ones for next year. We shout them from the rooftop with a Jerry Maguire-esque level of commitment at the start of the year, and then quietly proceed to never mention or address them again.
Here we are then, five days in. I let myself slide past January second because it was a travel day returning from celebrating the start of the new year. So really, I started a handful of resolutions on the third. And I already resent them. As I have done so many years before.
Now, as it isn’t my first time at the resolutions rodeo, I have learned that some things inevitably do not work for me. Long lists – never. Huge sweeping changes – incredibly unlikely. Bargaining with myself – well, it moves in the right direction. However, inevitably, sometime in the third week of January, my best laid plans have fallen right back into the patterns I was hoping to change. By the first of February they are a distant memory.
Why is that? I manage to accomplish things every year. Well, most years. I set goals, make plans, and see a great deal of them to some kind of fruition. I change personal habits. Why is it that the specific nature of New Year’s resolutions seem so much harder than any other work, personal or lifestyle goals and changes through the year?
For me, I think it comes down to that I’m simply not ready. I put them down as New Year’s resolutions because it is a universal time of goal-setting and life-changing. Just read back through social media from a week ago and you can see the grand pronouncements about losing weight, working out, drinking less, making more time for friends, spending less time on social media (unironically stated of course on social media); it is a cornucopia of making changes. Personally, I pull things from that ever-present list in the back of my mind that starts with “I really should…” and those are the things I put on the list.
The thing is, none of them are new to the list. They did not just suddenly occur to me in the few days leading up to the start of 2014. I have known for quite some time they are things I want to do or do something about – at some point. However, they haven’t risen to the level of urgency that requires actual action, and thus, saying “I’m going to do all of them this year” belies the fact that I may not be truly committed to them – even though I theoretically want to be.
So, I put them on the list, I reorganize my day to accommodate them, and then at some point I stop. I think the main difference is, when I decide in March that I want to work out more consistently for the vanity of swimsuit season or in August that I want to incorporate healthy or options into my diet or in October that I want to shift my work focus in a new direction – these things manage to actually happen because the importance of the result has reached the tipping point that requires action.
At the start of the New Year, all of these things sound nice, and I know I should do them, but if they weren’t important enough to do in December, a magical line in the calendar does not really change that fact all that much.
So this year, rather than attempt to demolish everything and build from the ground up, knowing I’m likely to quit before the foundation is poured because frankly, I like a lot about my current life approach – even some of the things I “should” change, I’m bargaining with myself in smaller ways.
Rather than upending my life and creating a vision board full of things it’s not humanly possible to accomplish in a single twelve-month period, I’m starting small. I’m setting a few manageable goals, and I’m not calling them resolutions. They are just goals. Just regular old, run-of-the-mill goals, like the kind that occur to me on a random Tuesday afternoon during the rest of the year. That way, when I miss a day, or forget for a while, or intentionally backslide because I’m annoyed with doing it, I don’t have the easy excuse of “well, there’s always next year” to wait ten months and try again. I set the goal, and it’s really up to me to decide to keep doing it. Each day. For me.
After all, it is a good time to start fresh and so I’m taking small steps toward some of the big changes. When (and yes, I choose to say when to support getting there) I achieve success in the first steps, I’ll set some new goals. Hopefully in February. And maybe, just maybe, I can fool myself into climbing a few of those mountains I keep ignoring by not letting myself realize I’m doing it – a few small steps at a time.