Don’t have resolutions. Have goals. A resolution infers you are doing something wrong. It infers regret, remorse for past behaviors you cannot change if you wanted to — that cake you ate, the gym membership you never used, the money you were too lazy to earn. Resolutions are inherently negative. Resolutions will make you hate the old you, and inevitably be disappointed in the new iteration you’ve dreamed up that rarely arrives. Because Old You or New You, you are You.
Goals are for the forward-looking. They quietly take into consideration your strengths and weaknesses without putting a heightened emphasis on either one. We are all flawed and beautiful people, capable of both great and horrible things. Instead of omitting seemingly bad behaviors, goals ask that you add better ones to your repertoire. You start saving your money for that trip to Vietnam. You start running every day to prepare for that marathon. You host more dinner parties for more of friends. Whatever you want to do, you make positive, regular steps in that direction. Naturally, without even thinking about it, if you put more good into your life, the bad will fall away on its own, like a proverbial sugar addiction that you’ve ceased to feed.
Make your goals attainable. Make goals that won’t come to haunt you a year from now, when you’re sitting in front of a paper wall of things you didn’t do because you set yourself up for failure. I once dated someone who obsessively made lists every day — lists only Superman or an undergrad with a speed problem could possibly burn through. He would write them on a dry erase board hanging in his closet and rewrite them in a notebook he would take to work. All day he was surrounded by these lists, more often than not checking off the easy ones like “pick up dry cleaning” and leaving “finish screenplay” untouched month after month, languishing in the past until the present became mired in frustration.
His New Year’s lists were the worst. Take a trip on a yacht. Make $100,000 in the stock market. Get married. These were goals inherently fallible in both their frivolous extravagance and their reliance on other people – on rich people with boats, on the stability of international economy, on the girl he was dating who probably had lists of her own.
Make goals that rely on you and your efforts. Make goals that you can take small steps towards each and every day, not sweeping transformations that require the hand of some higher power or the winning of a lottery ticket. And stop reading other people’s ideas for resolutions. Maybe you don’t need to adopt a dog or work in a soup kitchen or call your grandmother every day. Maybe you don’t need to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans or turn your kitchen gluten free. Live your life. Don’t let someone else’s goals be your goals – not today or any other day.
Happy New Year. Be gentle on yourself.