It’s that time again—when every magazine and newspaper, every blog and tweet tells us it’s time to set out our resolutions for the New Year. Each January, we’re bombarded with Resolution Fever and its promise of fresh starts, unbounded optimism, squeaky clean slates…12 whole months stretch out before us like an empty ocean, and we must set our compasses, chart our courses, begin as we mean to go on.
I understand the urge to resolve. For years, I’d spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eave reflecting and pondering: what should I change in my life this year? How should I resolve to make things better? I’d compose careful lists full of practical admonishments: lose weight (that’s a popular one, I hear); take a one-hour walk each day; make a budget and stick to it; cut all sugar out of my diet; get my taxes done on time.
I don’t need to tell you how long my wonderful intentions lasted. I was chatting with my fitness coach this afternoon, and she told me that January is the busiest month for new registrations at any gym; sadly, most of the eager new recruits have vanished by the end of the month, and then it’s back to business as usual. That pretty much describes the fate of my various New Year’s resolutions: great momentum for a couple of weeks, a week or two of doubt and flagging enthusiasm, and finally a dropping-off point, after which it’s “So long, resolution, it’s been good to know you.”
So about 10 years ago, I made the best resolution ever: I resolved that I would never again make a New Year’s resolution. As it happened, this was the first resolution I was ever able to keep. It was a challenge at first—some part of me really did yearn to make Big Changes as of January 1, even though some small, realistic part of me knew perfectly well that they’d end up in the toilet by month’s end.
But I stuck with it, and I’m proud to say that I’m now a certified, dyed-in-the-wool Non-Resolutioner. This doesn’t mean I don’t make changes in my life—I do, and more often than not, I stick to them with dogged determination. But these days I tackle changes one at a time, on an as-needed basis. And I don’t start until I know I have a fair chance of succeeding.
Even so, I have to admit that on some level I’m still drawn to the thrill of the New Year’s resolution. As each January 1 dawns, fresh and new and full of promise, it’s hard not to think, “Oh, goody! It’s 2013! This is the year I’ll…(take up modern dance/learn to speak fluent Japanese/go to the gym every single day).”
But then I think back on the long, sad trail of promises unkept. I think about how how each failure creates just a little more demoralization, and how that eventually leads to despair and depression. And then I take a deep breath and stride boldly into the New Year, devoid of resolutions but full of wonder, hope, and excitement at what these new months may bring.