New Year’s Resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep. Many people splurge on a gym membership, only to stop going after a few weeks. Others decide to give up some foods, but cave in and end up binging on them. But why is it that we find it so difficult to stick to our goals? Having thought about it, I developed a theory.
I’ve noticed that most people set themselves quantitative targets – to lose a certain number of pounds, go to the gym a certain number of times per week, stick to a specific diet and so on. If they slip, they believe they have ‘failed’.
Personally, I’m not a fan of this attitude. The success-failure concept is instilled in us throughout our school years and work lives – in an exam, for example, you must achieve a certain number of marks or you have ‘failed’. If you do fail, you can expect disappointment from teachers and parents.
This mindset stems from the competitive nature of our culture, and I feel we need to let go of it. Of course, it’s not necessary to make resolutions at all, but I do have hopes and aims for the new year. I’ve therefore decided to set myself some general targets to work towards – things along the lines of ‘continue to develop spiritually’ and ‘make progress towards overcoming social anxiety’.
You’ll notice it’s difficult to apply the success-failure concept to these goals, as they aren’t quantitative. I think this is a far more realistic way of setting resolutions; I’m not challenging myself to completely overcome social anxiety, for example, because I recognise it’s something that will take time and can’t be rushed.
Similarly, I hopefully won’t end up beating myself up for ‘failing’ to achieve these targets; for instance, if I continue along my present path, I’ll inevitably keep developing spiritually. Since I haven’t set a specific target for how much I want to develop (I think that would be impossible anyway!), I’m highly unlikely to ‘fail’.
It may seem pointless to set resolutions I’m almost guaranteed to succeed at, but I’m viewing this year’s resolutions as guidelines which will help me become the person I want to be. We’re all continually growing and evolving, and these guidelines will allow me to progress as much as I’m able to. If my progress is relatively small, it doesn’t matter – I’ve done what I can. If I go over and above what I thought was possible, then great!
Most of us have enough to worry about without beating ourselves up over failed resolutions. Maybe you’ll join me in setting targets which are more realistic and kinder to yourself. If so, I’d love to hear what yours are. A very happy new year to you all!