A fresh start? Why we need New Year’s resolutions

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

– Oprah Winfrey

 

I have never really believed in New Year’s resolutions. So, this time around, when a couple of days before Christmas this guy I am kind of seeing asked me – in the sweetest possible way – what my New Year’s resolutions were, I was caught off guard.

According to Professor John C. Norcross Ph.D., less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are actually achieved. So, if even objective statistics are not on our side, why do we keep making NY resolutions?

 

It’s not (all) about the destination

My guess is that we, as humans, do not really need to achieve our resolutions, we just need to make them.

Most NY resolutions involve some kind of self-improvement, the most popular according to statistics being to lose weight. Other popular resolutions connected to some kind of personal development are quitting smoking, quitting drinking, saving more money, falling in love and learning something new.

Now, self-improvement is, in the end, what keep us going. Learning from our mistakes and trying to become better, happier people are the things that keep us focused and give a greater meaning to our daily lives. But, as it is with big life plans, the truth of the matter is that it is not really important to achieve our resolutions. More crucial to our lives is the fact that we do have resolutions and plans that keep us going. It is, in the end, not really about the destination, it is about the journey.

 

The magic of new beginnings

As said, I am not a resolutions person. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t have short- and long-term goals. In fact, I have a thing for planning and have my goals for the next 2 to 5 years figured out. What I don’t usually do is breaking them down into 3 or 5 NY resolutions at the beginning of every year. This time around though, after being cough off guard by my date, I sat down and wrote my five NY resolutions for 2017. And it felt damn good.

But why on NYE? Of course, we all know that the beginning of the new year is more a convention then an actual fact. Still, the tradition of making new years resolutions has been around for more than a while. It actually goes back to the Romans, who made their promises to Janus,  the two-faced god who looks backward into the old year and forwards into the new. In my opinion, this points to the fact that we – as humans – both need and trust new beginnings. That’s why we always start our diets on a Monday, or why we decide to quit drinking on our 30th birthday.

And, it is true, new beginnings can be life-changing. But it is important to know that, in case we need to re-adjust, we don’t have to wait for the next year to make a change – to put it in Sofia’s terms in the movie Vanilla Sky: “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.”

 

It’s the little things

Going back to my date asking me about my New Year’s resolutions, after mumbling that I still had to think about mine, I asked him what his goals for the year to come were. He smiled and said he had five resolutions, and some were probably very small things to me, but big achievements for him, like reading a book in a foreign language.

I loved the approach. It made me think that we do not need to have huge plans for the new year, that getting into Harvard or eating healthy 7 days a week, or never having a glass of wine again are not the kind of resolutions everyone needs and can stick to. It is too easy to fall through. Extreme resolutions would end up making us frustrated and doing more harm than good.

On the contrary, what we need– what I need – are small, achievable resolutions. Baby steps. Learning the basics of this one language you love, taking that trip, reading this or that book, getting to know this or that person better – NY resolutions do not have to be radical or groundbreaking, they have to be meaningful for us and achievable. Because, in the end, it is those little things that keep us going and really make us happy.

 

 

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