Why I’m done with New Year’s resolutions

Every year on New Year’s Day I feel anxious for a fresh start. “This is the year,” I tell myself. And I really mean it. I really believe that opening a fresh new calendar will give me the motivation I need to make all the changes I failed to make the previous year.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever followed through with a single resolution. The closest I came was the year after Judah was born when I resolved to take at least one photo a day. I made it to July before I stopped making an effort to use my camera each day. Let’s be honest, though, my success was probably more likely due to the new baby who stayed relatively still looking cute. Once he started moving, I was done playing photographer.

This year is no different. I have a whole list of things I’d like to change about myself — get in shape, be more organized, finally get to the home improvement projects we’ve been putting off, be more creative, make more time for the things I enjoy doing.

When I really started thinking about it, I started to feel really bad about myself. That’s the thing about New Year’s resolutions — most of them are pretty focused on what’s not good enough about us. As I ticked off the huge list of possible New Year’s resolutions in my head, all I could think was, “Man, I’m doing a lot of things so wrong.”

I think most of us get enough of that kind of negative self talk as it is without focusing an entire yearly tradition on what’s not good enough about us, what we need to change.

I’m not bashing self-improvement. It’s important to be healthy, take care of ourselves, and banish bad habits. However, instead of making a resolution and setting myself up for disappointment if I fail, I’m changing my perspective this year. I’m focusing on the positive. Instead of thinking about all the things I need to change about myself, I’m surrounding myself with people, things, and ideas that motivate and inspire me to take care of myself and my family in the way that we deserve.

The problem with “New Year’s resolutions” is that when we tie our motivation to a time of the year, the motivation inevitably wears off. Anyone who regularly works out at a gym is familiar with this phenomenon. Every January 1, there is a flood of new faces in the cardio room and the classes. Suddenly you’re waiting in line for a treadmill when just before Christmas 90% of the machines were empty. By Valentine’s Day, the crowds are gone. All of those people who rushed to the gym after the holiday gluttony and resolved to finally get in shape have gotten back to their busy lives.

So I decided — no New Year’s resolutions this year. If I choose to eat better, exercise more, organize more efficiently, or start a new home project, I’ll do it because I’m feeling motivated and inspired to do so in the moment — not because of the date on the calendar. I’m not going to spend the beginning of the year feeling bad about myself because of all the things I need to change.

Do New Year’s resolutions work for you? How do you motivate yourself to make positive changes?

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4 thoughts on “Why I’m done with New Year’s resolutions

  1. Kacie

    I kind of felt bad when I looked over some ideas I had at the beginning of 2012 (they were not SMART goals, and I think if they were, it would have helped). I was like…wow. I fell so short.

    So rather than focusing on personal improvement in January, I just like to think ahead for the year in terms of finances. It’s something tangible and something more measurable than “spend less time on the computer” like i had tried, vaguely and failed.

  2. Caitlin

    I have basically given up on resolutions as well. There are a couple of things I’ve picked up, though–one is to pick a word or theme to focus on for the year (read more in this post from Rowdy Kittens: http://rowdykittens.com/2012/11/2012/). My word/theme for 2013 is love. I want to respond to others from a place of love (instead of negativity, where I usually jump), and I want to appreciate the people I love and do the things I love to do. I want to get in better shape and eat healthier but this year that is going to come from loving my body and wanting to take care of it, not from wanting to change the way I look because it’s not good enough.

    The other part is to just focus on one change at a time (this is from Leo Babauta’s book The Power of Less–his blog Zen Habits is also great). New Year’s seems like a time to pile things on, when really it’s much easier to change something if we focus on one change at a time. So right now I am making the effort to work out for a few minutes every day to build a fitness habit, and that is the only change I am working on. I still try to make good choices as far as food but I’m not focusing on it. In general focusing on one thing has made such a big difference in my life–I’m not always accomplishing more but I feel much calmer about everything.

  3. Miiockm

    I decided the same thing as you for this year. Instead of making grand resolutions I would just try to work on little things and eventually they’d add up by themselves.

  4. Matt

    Maybe it’s the huge list you’re beating yourself up with? Many people fall victim to the same thing. They’re going to eat better, do more exercise, get more organised, give up smoking, start saving, visit their folks more etc. etc. It’s all too much!
    Why not try just one resolution and go from there?

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