Did you get that gym membership yet? Swear off sugar, wine or cigarettes? Feeling a bit overwhelmed? A little jittery from chocolate withdrawal, maybe? Yes, yes, I know it’s only January 3rd, but a sense of discouragement can set in surprisingly quickly sometimes. Why? Unattainable goals are not real goals. They’ll only lead to quick burnout and bad feelings.
Resolutions are decisions. We make them at a point when we’re so tired of wanting to change that we decide to take the steps to do things differently. For many, coming to that point is a journey of frustrating and sometimes unfortunate events. And this is precisely why New Year’s resolutions usually tend to fail. They begin on a day chosen collectively by society, rather than by a true inner desire to change and the much needed experiences that drive our resolve forward.
New Year’s resolutions may often feel like a burdensome obligation instead of an exciting, well thought out plan. Just because we’re embarking on a new year doesn’t mean a resolution is required or that we’re mentally and logistically prepared for it. And that’s okay. There are some folks who have prepared and are ready to make a change on January 1st, and that’s okay too. However, for most of us who may not be, especially followed by weeks of indulgence, the societal pressure to make an impactful change can only cause us to feel discouraged and guilty. Not the ideal place for new beginnings.
I was in my early 20’s when struggling to quit smoking and made several half-hearted attempts. I had asthma and it didn’t make sense to smoke anymore, not that there’s a time it ever made sense. The defining moment in which I knew it had to be done however, was when my daughter came home from preschool and declared that smoking was an illegal drug. She authoritatively handed me a sheet of paper that contained a picture of a cigarette within a circle and a thick slash going through the image. She tearfully demanded that I quit because if I didn’t, the police would find me out and throw me in jail forever and forever. Rather than explaining that it was legal, I resolved instead that I had to stop, because either way, she was right, I had no business smoking. In the following weeks after the discussion, I pulled together friends and family who would encourage me, got rid of all objects related to smoking, learned other ways to deal with stress and prayed for strength, a lot. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t quick and I slipped up periodically. But, ultimately I was successful.
Instead of succumbing to expensive gym memberships, attempting to quit smoking in a week (which I attempted many times) or trying to save ten zillion dollars within three months (yup, another one I failed at horribly), allow yourself the time, emotional support and space to figure out what you’d really like to achieve and how you want to go about it.
Have a healthy, beautiful new year.