Happy New Year everyone! Personally, I have a good feeling about 2017. I do have to admit that ringing in the new year got me thinking though…The tradition of setting resolutions for the year on New Years Eve is a long standing one, but after years of always setting lofty goals that left me feeling poorly about myself, I started analyzing whether or not it was a positive practice. I’m a strong advocate for personal work, self reflection, and always striving to be a better version of myself, but my resolutions never made me feel anything other than more critical of myself in the end. While I know that the tradition itself has good intentions, in this post I’m going to talk about the thought process behind why I no longer participate, and what I do at the beginning of the year instead!
Simply put, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because I believe we should constantly strive for a mindset that welcomes goal setting and growth. I do not believe in a single holiday per year where we make a goal and that’s it. I believe we should always be open to changing in small, tangible ways that support our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Since making it a priority to regularly reflect on my situation and feelings, I’ve reaped the benefits of being in tune with myself enough to know when and how to make small, beneficial adjustments; I believe we all need to cultivate this mindset.
This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but recently I realized that this self aware mindset isn’t incredibly common amongst people. What is incredibly common amongst people is getting stuck in habitual ruts. I know plenty of people who, day in and day out, wish that their situations were different but do nothing to bring about real change. They follow draining routines and mental patterns. All the while they fixate on goals that are realistically too large to touch from their current position. “I want to lose 40 pounds,” when they are too injured to exercise. “I want to branch into a new career,” when they continue to work their same 9-5 and spend their free time watching Netflix. These goals trap them in a dogmatic position because they are not attainable based on their situations and actions. That’s why I think that lofty, future-thinking goals are ultimately unhealthy for us. They make us lose sight of the short term and tangible and lead to unhappiness and dissatisfaction in our lives. Without being open to self reflection and putting in the effort to make small, constant changes, idealistic goals are rarely achievable.
From my observations, New Year’s resolutions are typically idealistic…and abandoned before February arrives.
Another reason why I became critical of this tradition was because of the unkind messages I was sending myself with my own resolutions. More often than not they were rooted in insecurity and societal expectations. I can’t remember how many times my resolution was to lose weight, and when I didn’t by the end of the year I would think, defeated, ‘I guess there’s next year…’ When we make strict resolutions that communicate to ourselves that we don’t accept and love ourselves as we are right now, we are not helping ourselves. Realistically I didn’t lose weight because I didn’t have the energy due to chronic illness. Realistically I just wanted to feel better, not necessarily weigh less. When I finally realized this and began prioritizing my health and self esteem by taking daily, achievable steps to care for my body and mind, I felt better about myself and no longer fixated on my weight. By treating myself with grace and taking care of my needs I achieved far more than I ever had focusing on my resolution to lose weight.
Last January I decided I would do something new. Instead of participating in setting a New Year’s resolution, I decided to set a tone for the year instead. Growing up, I knew a girl who would always assign a word to the upcoming year; whatever it personally meant to her, I always interpreted it as an intention she was setting for the months ahead. Maybe a characteristic she wanted to build, or an attitude she wanted to focus on. With this in mind, I decided to focus on the word ‘embodiment’ in 2016. Why? Despite caring so much about health and wellness, many of my closest friends weren’t aware that I had this interest at all. I realized that in all the years of making resolutions I had never resolved to be more authentically myself. Throughout the year I thought of the word ’embodiment’ often. It became a positive mantra for me that reminded me to act with my true self in mind, even when that was intimidating. When I was feeling worn out and considering skipping yoga, a little voice in my head reminded me of my intention to embody my interests and the lifestyle that I believe in. When my insecurities had me on the fence about creating Thunder & Lace, the same voice chimed in. When 2017 rolled around last weekend, I reflected on how much more I embody what I believe in now as opposed to one year ago, and I felt proud.
So, instead of setting paralyzing resolutions that might have undertones that discount your self worth, try setting the tone for 2017 with a word instead! For example, if you have weight loss in mind, maybe consider focusing on a word like ‘vitality’ or ‘wellness.’ When you make daily decisions, ask yourself if they apply to your word, and if not, analyze how you could make small changes to alter that. I’m confident that by cultivating this mindset that relies on self awareness and small change you will find yourself much closer to your true aspirations by the time we’re celebrating the beginning of 2018.