There’s a general consensus around New Year’s resolutions: making them is fun. Sticking to them is not.
This wrestle can continue all year long. We want to have the proposed end-point of the resolution, the light at the end of the tunnel, but we falter in executing (or even creating) a plan to reach it. This is why, year-in and year-out, people will chuckle about how soon they ‘failed’ at their resolutions.
But it’s not that simple: if every resolution were destroyed each time we got sidetracked, nothing would ever be achieved. We’d do well to remember the motivational posters tacked up in our grade school homerooms: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
This is the most important item to remember when setting and working towards your resolution: you don’t need to abandon it if you momentarily fail at it. This is where discipline and commitment will be tested. It’s easier to say, ‘I failed, I’ll do better next year,’ making it next year’s issue and leaving you off the hook for the rest of 2019.
But sticking to your resolutions is just that. It requires perseverance, hard work, and a sense of responsibility—not to others, but to yourself. At times, it’s helpful to view a resolution as a technique of self-care. Rather than a rigid, martial, all-or-nothing rule, it’s an annual chance to implement new practices in looking after yourself. This will look different for each person: maybe you wish to be in better shape, or perhaps you wish to up your protein intake and reduce your sugars. You might even just want to keep your workspace clean and organized.
Regardless of what the goal is, the most critical difference between a successful or unsuccessful resolution is our ability to commit ourselves to that change. That, of course, depends on how badly we want it.
Writer Brandon Stosuy recently described success as “having the discipline to do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, even if nobody’s watching you, and you’re only saying it to yourself.” This gets at the core of our struggles with new year’s resolutions: unlike at work, in most cases no one will be monitoring our progress or ensuring we complete tasks and hit deadlines. It’s on us to either succeed or abandon our resolutions.
Luckily, there are certain strategies that can help you stick to your guns and accomplish your goals for the year. One of these is to do things step-by-step: draw up a game-plan that breaks your resolution down into manageable bits, and cross them off as you go. (Rome wasn’t built in a day, etc.) Another helpful technique is to talk about your experiences with your resolutions. Solidarity and community discussion is a helpful tool for not only pushing us towards success, but assuaging our anxieties about struggling.
This public outreach need not be limited to discussion. It’s important to assess when we need help. Although resolutions are largely a personal endeavour, this doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help in attaining them. It is a fool’s errand to push ourselves to extremes in the name of independence. We build community so that we can lean on each other. Sometimes, sticking to your resolution means using a lifeline.
New Year’s resolutions can be draining, but they can also be enriching, pushing us to discover more about ourselves and those around us. This year, set resolutions that will encourage you to work year-round to accomplish them, and then hold yourself accountable for them. If you enter next year having made changes, then you’ve stuck to your resolutions.