As 2009 draws to a close, many people will be asking the usual question – “What is your new year’s resolution?”. As per usual, however, I’ll be telling them that I don’t have one. As it so happens, I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions.
It’s not because I don’t think that there’s a value in resolving to improve yourself or your life, but rather that I believe that you shouldn’t wait for a new year to roll around before you do so. If at some point, you feel like you need a change because you’re unhappy in your job, in your relationship, etc. then the time to act is at that point, not at an arbitrary future date. You don’t need a new year to come in order to spruce up your CV and/or portfolio, to reconnect with long lost friends, or to decide to spend more time with family. Putting these things off until the new year just means you’re more likely to keep putting them off or leaving them “on the long finger” for a very long time.
Deciding to make life changes around the new year, and then telling people that you’re doing so, can help to motivate you, but in practice, I’ve found that all it does is motivate people to tell others about the changes they’re planning, rather than to actually do them. It’s easy to get caught up in the fuss and noise of it all, and make promises to yourself that are impossible to keep. There is nothing wrong with resolving to exercise more, for example, but if you also resolve to eat better and change your career and sort out your relationship and organise your house and…quickly, one resolution spirals into a glut of resolutions, and the simple fact of the matter is that not even Wonder Woman herself could make all of those changes instantly on January 1st and keep to them without a stumble.
Then there’s all that additional pressure to keep your resolution because it’s a “new year’s resolution”, even if it turns out that the decision wasn’t for the best. You’ve made all of those important promises, and each one is equally important, and what’s more, you’ve made your intentions public too. Looking at it in the stark light of day (or the stark light of January 31st), it should be clear that you’re not setting yourself up for success, you’re setting yourself up for a fall, a fall which will probably be made worse because others around you will know that you haven’t kept your promise (or perhaps, luckily, they’ll be too busy drowning in their own resolutions to notice).
The thing is, spread out over a year, all of those things above are perfectly manageable. With a little hard work and time, you can change your career, or your family life, or your house. It’s just that, unless you’re some sort of Ultra Woman (or Man, because this is an equal opportunities blog), it’s going to be really tough to make all of those changes at once. So, why try? Instead, sit down with a calendar and plan a bit. Maybe February is the month to focus on the house, and March or April a good time to work on your career. Or maybe a little bit toward the career each week, along with a little bit toward the house, can get you moving forward with both by April or May. Rather than make a glut of impossible promises, just think about what you want to change, and the best way to change it. Not just in December and January, but all the time.
Coming into 2010, why not make a resolution to make sensible resolutions, and then never make another “new year’s” resolution again.