Our calendars have flipped and a new year is upon us. Already off to a precarious yet hopeful start, 2021 has us reviewing the misfortunes of last year, forcing us to re-evaluate our lifestyles, goals, and attitudes. Traditionally, society pushes us to aim to be "better" as we age; to be healthier, more financially successful, and more present in our (limited) interactions. While all of these sentiments are pure in their nature, the pressure to be constantly improving upon ourselves via 'resolutions' with each passing year is, well, outdated. Even the world 'resolution' in itself is somewhat demeaning; insinuating that we are problem-riddled beings which need to be 'resolved' or 'fixed' in order to feel fulfilled. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to be better, let's explore ways to optimize our experiences this year in a more thoughtful yet realistic way.
No More New Year, New Me
Intentions vs Resolutions
Many of our anxieties surrounding self-improvement as a society stems from constantly looking for things to fix about ourselves under intense scrutiny and self-critique. Resolutions provide us with tangible ways of improving upon our existing habits, attitudes, and abilities. However, when we fail our on our resolutions which, 80% of the time occurs by February, we feel guilt, shame and even less driven to succeed in our self-made promises. After week 2 or 3, your resolution to 'work out more' can evoke the same feeling you got when you had to clean your room as a child--an unappealing chore. This all or nothing approach has plagued society for years. By over-promising we immediately set ourselves up for failure, and its time for this cycle to end.
This year, instead of creating demanding or unrealistic resolutions for yourself, dig deeper around the intentions of your actions. If you tend to resolve to work out more, ask yourself: "what is the real reason I am interested in improving my fitness levels?". If the answer is rooted in insecurity, shame, or self-hatred, find a kinder and more compassionate approach. If you want your routine to stick, the intention of your actions of self-improvement should come from a place of genuine interest in showing yourself respect, feeling your best and most fulfilled. Focus your intentions on self-satisfaction, not on external validation.
Focusing on Habits
One of the best ways to manage the outcome of our efforts is by focusing on creating better habits. If done consistently, habits become part of our routines, and this, our lifestyle. This is unlike resolutions which feel like additions or add ons to our existing lifestyles. Once consistent and repetitive acts become habits (according to experts this takes approximately 21 days), they become automatic and don't occupy as much space in our minds as resolutions might.
Habits become part of what makes us who we are, whereas resolutions feel more separate much like tasks, goals, or errands. Focus on building habits that support your goals. An example of this would be going to bed earlier (habit), so that you can feel more rested and perform better throughout your day, thus helping you achieve your goals.
Gratitude Over Yearning
So much energy is wasted over feeling envy, desire, and longing for the things you wish you had. No time promotes this more than the new year, where we set out to continuously accomplish more and more in the hopes that we will come closer to living the life of our dreams. Too much focus on our desires as opposed to feelings of gratitude for our existing blessings leaves us feeling deprived, jealous, and never satisfied. Regular reflection on our accomplishments, the strength of our relationships, and what we might otherwise take for granted puts us in a better mindset which serves us far more.
Take note of what is is that makes you feel wonderful. Perhaps write these things down in your day planner or journal. Not everything is going to be great this year, but if you can face the world with a clearer and more level-headed attitude, you'll be able to cope with whatever 2021 throws your way. Be grateful for the little things, the small wins, and the painful yet valuable lessons you learn from loss. Focus on what you do have control over, and know that you have power within you to make small changes towards a better future for yourself -- without needing to make enormous adjustments or serious lifestyle changes over night.