It’s the new year. So, it’s time for a new you, right? It’s time for resolutions: eat better, go to the gym, cut out all the negative people in your life, drink less Starbucks, read more and watch less TV.
I’ve never had a New Year’s resolution. I’m not anti-New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve just never felt like a new year is enough of a catalyst for change. It’s all in your head. If on March 7 you resolve to eat better, well then, that change is going to happen on March 7, and all the more power to you.
It seems like there’s a certain pressure that comes along with a New Year’s resolution, doesn’t it? Let’s take one of the most popular ones for example: Getting healthier.
You tell people about it, and you get all hyped up. You say you’re going to join the gym, and you’re going to eat healthier. So, you meal prep your first week. You pack your gym bag, and you go to the gym at 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day. You sweat and hate it but know it’s bound to make you feel better about yourself, so you power through.
You drink your protein shake that you made from your new, gigantic, shiny bottle of whey protein powder the guy at GNC recommended to you. You eat your salad for lunch, and you eat your carefully portioned serving of pistachios as a mid-afternoon snack. You’re tired, and you’re hungry. You’re already regretting your resolution.
Then, someone invites you out for wings, and you think, surely, one dinner of wings is okay, right?
The next thing you know, you’ve joined that group. The group who goes to the gym for the first week of the year and then, regrettably, watches their gym membership get automatically deducted from their account each month without actually using it because it turns out that Jan. 1 isn’t enough of a reason to make a resolution stick.
Rewind to the month before New Year’s. What were you eating? All of the holiday foods. Were you controlling your portions? Probably not. Why bother? It’s the holidays, and you’re going to get fit and healthy come the new year anyway.
Our bodies simply don’t work that way. Our minds don’t work that way either. Now, sure, it works for some people. I’ve seen it. But, I’ve seen more of the above-mentioned scenario for sure.
This holds true for all resolutions. If you resolved to stop judging people on Jan. 1 but spent all of Christmas week and New Year’s Eve gossiping about Aunt Millie’s awful haircut, then you probably won’t magically start thinking positively about others.
If you resolved to stop procrastinating and get homework done early, but you spent all of finals week cramming until 3 a.m. for your 7 a.m. final, then I don’t claim to have a crystal ball, but I’d say that there’s going to be a whole lot of effort needed to make that happen.
I may have just introduced the magic word: effort. Conscious effort, even. We want to be better or different or new versions of ourselves, but often, we don’t consider the effort necessary to do so. Simply saying we want to accomplish change, and having the vision of that change, is not enough. We have to put forth real effort. We have to actually want the change, not just think or say we want it. Then, we start the journey to make it happen, and we don’t give up.
If you find yourself gossiping about Aunt Millie again on Jan. 3 and allow yourself to do it, you’ve already failed. If you are consciously aware of what you’ve done and you remind yourself you don’t want to be that way anymore, then you’re moving in the right direction.
If you sit down to start studying for that Friday exam on Tuesday and your friends invite you out, it’s whether you stick to your resolution that makes the difference. When you realize your resolution is more important to you than the things that have held you back from achieving it in the past, that’s the work it takes to make a resolution happen.
If Jan. 1 sounds like the right date for you to make change in your life, then do it, but actually do it. Resolve to do something for you, not for Jan. 1 or for anyone else.
Remember: it won’t be easy. If it’s a resolution that’s truly going to make a positive change in your life, then it’s going to be hard. It’s going to take effort, but if you really want it, you’ll keep reminding yourself. You’ll find that voice inside you that’s stronger than your demons, and you’ll make it happen.
And, I hope you do.