Why I Don't Make New Years Resolutions: The Case Against This Annual Practice

It is once again the time of year I dread the most — that buffer space between December 26th and January 1st where all anyone wants to talk about (including every news publication I read, from The New York Times to Slate) is new year's resolutions. Whether it's an article about "how to motivate yourself in the new year," some specific tips for your lifestyle changes, or even a discussion about the science behind new years resolutions, everyone seems to have a contribution to the discussion about how the new year will lead to a new you. So here's my contribution — I don't buy it.

There are a lot of reasons I don't make new year's resolutions, but the main one has to do with the fact that I am generally uninterested in setting myself up for failure. This is not to say that I can't commit to a goal for an entire year; in fact, what I'm saying is actually the opposite. When we make new year's resolutions, 100 percent of the time we do so without knowing the external factors that may affect our lives and our abilities to follow through with those resolutions in the coming year. From what I understand, no one (except Raven Symoné) can actually see what will happen in their future, and though it's important to have goals, aspirations, and plans, I think it's unkind to not give yourself leeway if something goes wrong.

For example, if someone makes a resolution to remain optimistic in times of great strain and sadness, but is then confronted by the death of close friend or relative, it could be really counter-productive to stick aggressively to the resolution in the terms you had defined it at the beginning of the year. The more healthy and productive approach would be to let that resolution transform with you and remain sympathetic to the reality of your life. Oftentimes, I find the way people make resolutions and the language surrounding them allows for there to be no forgiveness of leeway if they're broken, even by factors out of your control.

The second reason I don't make new years resolutions is actually the opposite of the first. It has nothing to do with external factors and has everything to do with my own hopes, dreams, and aspirations and my ability to transform them. To me, it's extremely important to have a basic framework and trajectory for living my life, but it's also very important to acknowledge that it's OK if I change my mind due to how I'm feeling or how my own understanding of the world, which is constantly being enriched by new experiences, changes. Making hard and fast rules at the beginning of the year that could come into direct conflict with the way my life my change as the year goes on isn't helpful for anyone, and the desire to stick stubbornly to a specific resolution could negatively effect the way I handle those changes.

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None of this is to say that no one should make new year's resolutions, because obviously they're a thing, and for some people they're actually tremendously helpful. But my piece of advice would be to allow yourself space and forgive yourself if the resolution fails, or if you decide you don't care about it anymore, or if you aren't able to follow through for some reason. When it comes down to it, your life isn't going to drastically change because of the arbitrariness of a new year. Life is a continuum and I prefer to make mini-resolutions for myself as time goes on and as my experiences layer themselves on top of one another. It allows me to stick to my goals, work on loving myself, and become more aware of the world around me as each day passes instead of just once at the beginning of every 365 cycle.

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