Every December, I make a lengthy list of resolutions in my journal and keep it handy in my bedside table drawer. Every year, my goal-driven husband doesn’t and resists my nudges to join me. “But how will you be a better version of yourself next year without something to aspire towards?” I ask every single year. “How’d that work out for you last year?” he replies every single year. Touché.
He’s right. I realized this year that setting my resolutions always feels motivating, but shortly after I’m left feeling disappointed and down once I notice I’ve been setting the same ones for years on end. Once I reflect on my progress — or lack thereof — I’m overwhelmed by feelings of failure and inadequacy, which can lead to a negative spiral and not conducive to me reaching my goals.
Why Resolutions Become Disappointing
This year I asked myself why this happens. Could it be that I don’t really want to reach the fitness goal I’ve set for the past five years? Or maybe I’m busy prioritizing other things that are more fulfilling than of changing jobs or finally cleaning our storage area, or maybe (most likely) I’m so busy thinking about my list of positive goals that I don’t actually get around to putting them in motion.
There’s no point in setting the same goals only to feel disappointed — as Albert Einstein (might have) said — insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So, this year, I’m shifting my strategy and focusing on being more present, without the pressure to do anything other than reach my potential. It’s vague, but it’s clear. I’m taking pressure off myself and opening up space to simply live. It’ll likely help me enjoy 2020 more, and, I’m guess, you might benefit from the same.
According to an article on Bustle on why New Year’s Eve makes people sad, self-improvement resolutions make people who struggle with mental illness feel like they are inadequate, especially if they don’t live up to the standards they set. Since a common symptom of depression, for those with the mental illness, is low self-esteem, comparing oneself to others or assessing their achievements against your own can feel particularly icky. Add that to the fact that those with depression often have a negatively skewed self-perception, it’s no wonder resolutions aren’t as motivating as you’d hope them to be.
How to Keep Realistic Resolutions
Knowing myself, I’ll still make a short list this year — change is hard, and we’re creatures of habit, another reason it’s difficult to take on resolutions. The saying “New year, new you” is unrealistic, but small changes can go a long way toward helping you meet long-term goals. So, to make my resolutions stick, I’ll be switching up my strategy and creating realistic resolutions by:
- Making short resolutions
- Planning my follow-through
- Checking in with myself and having someone else do the same to keep me accountable
- Celebrating little victories
- Giving myself grace to slip up
It’s likely I still won’t run a half marathon, and my box of college papers will remain in the storage unit collecting more dust. But hopefully this time next year I’ll be OK with that, rather than beating myself up for what I haven’t done. I look forward to being able to look back at what I did accomplish. And that just might make my husband join my resolution bandwagon in 2021.