Resolutions don’t have to be so resolute
In 2023, we're being nicer to ourselves
A tale as old as time - you set a New Year’s resolution and, unlike last year, this is going to be the year you stick to it. You’re going to completely cut out sugar and sweets. Goodbye bad skin, hello perfect body.
On January 1, you’re killing it. You opt for an apple with peanut butter for dessert. A health icon. You couldn’t be bribed into eating a chocolate bar.
On January 5, you’re still going strong. Your friends want to get ice cream, but you pass. No temptations today. It’s exhausting being the pinnacle of health, but someone has to do it.
Then February 5 comes. You’ve been so good. So good. But you go to dinner with your family, and they order dessert for the table. It’s like they don’t even care about your resolution. One thing leads to another and you take a bite. And another. There it goes. Your New Year's resolution has been broken. You might as well give up and try again next year.
Here’s where your mindset is so crucial. The key lies in the phrasing of your resolution. As great as it sounds, completely cutting something out is unrealistic. There’s one of two ways that making an all-or-nothing resolution can play out:
You successfully follow it and completely cut out something you enjoy. No slip ups, no small bites of food, but you feel successful. Where’s the fun in that?
You slip up, as humans tend to do, and you’re mad at yourself. You feel like a failure and you give up. Why even bother continuing to try?
These scenarios may seem a little extreme, but that’s what it boils down to. You’re either devoid of simple pleasures or you’re overly hard on yourself when you break your resolution. That doesn’t sound like the healthiest way to start the new year.
Let’s try this again. Maybe instead of completely cutting out sweets, you can cut back on sweets. Instead of saying you’re going to work out every day, work out more often. Instead of resolving to read a book a week, make an effort to read more. This way, you can’t suddenly “fail” your resolution and spiral into a pit of self deprecation.
I know they’re called resolutions, but the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year shouldn’t be so resolute. Instead, they should be more aspirational. This takes away the black-and-white, fail/pass way we typically think of resolutions.
Things happen. People slip up. Sometimes, you want to live a little, and that’s okay. If you’re making a conscious effort to make a positive change in your life, then one day, one slip up, should not determine how you feel about yourself. A year is 365 days, and a “mistake” that lasted an hour does not determine how successful the remaining 8659 hours are. Don’t let one bite of ice cream determine the trajectory of your year.
It’s easy to burn out if your resolution is too rigid. If you try going 0-100 in the span of a day, you’re unlikely to find much joy in your new lifestyle. If you suddenly decide you want to work out every single day, your body is going to hurt. Unfortunately, while your mind may be aware that it’s January 1, your body is simply confused, sore, and not used to the sudden increase in movement. Instead, buy that gym membership, but start out by going three days per week. It doesn’t have to be Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but whenever you have a chance to go without overwhelming yourself. You don’t want to start subconsciously associating your resolutions with feeling overwhelmed, or you’ll start to resent them.
A resolution needs to be sustainable, and creating an impossible standard for yourself to meet is often the opposite.
If you do something that contradicts your resolution, instead of feeling defeated, look at the why. Let’s say you wanted to read X many books in X amount of time, but you slacked off for a month because you were working on an important project that took up most of your time. Instead of being disappointed in yourself for not reading the book, be proud of yourself for finishing that project. Success is fluid, and it doesn’t have to be determined by the standard you set a month prior.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t set New Year's resolutions. In theory, they’re a great way to get yourself to practice a healthier lifestyle. You just have to be careful with how you go about practicing them. Be nice to yourself, and go crush those (attainable) goals.
Go to dinner with your family and enjoy the ice cream, you deserve it. I promise it won’t ruin your year.
Lindsay is an online writer for Rowdy. In her free time, you can find her on a walk, at the gym, or bothering her roommates (but only before 10 p.m. because she has a strict bedtime).