The merry-go-round of wishing everyone a Happy New Year and half-heartedly making New Year's resolutions is with us once again.
Let me echo the same sentiment and wish you a genuinely good new year, but don't expect me to support you in the creation of New Year's resolutions. They're a troublesome custom, and here are three reasons they're a terrible idea.
Because you want to stop something "bad"
Stop eating cake. Stop the sugary drinks. Stop being so negative. Stop smoking. And you really gotta stop feeding your demons.
Typically, your New Year Resolution will be about stopping something because you believe it's bad or unwanted. But this totally fails to notice the behaviour that anchors that habit, the thoughts and feelings that drive it, let alone the perception of it being "bad" in the first place.
Sure, consuming a lot of white sugar and smoking like a chimney isn't a great idea, but simply having the aim of stopping these habits will make sure that your Resolution will be dead and buried when Easter rolls around.
Because you want to start something "good"
Starting that diet. Hitting the gym. Starting to meditate. New Year's Resolutions are littered with good intentions.
Most of these ideas come from people or influences around you. See something on Facebook or hear a friend talking, and you breathe in their good intentions and attempt to make them your own.
Rarely do you look at what makes sense for you, let alone the reasons and motivations for wanting to make a change and the patterns of behaviour that will get in your way.
Because it's expected
There are so many pressures around, pressures that bubble away like a big ol' stinky soup. Look a certain way. Fit in, in a particular way. Do your job, in a particular way. Love someone, in a particular way.
Embarking on a course of action because it's expected, is really just making choices based on what will give you an easy life, what will make you feel accepted, and what will make you feel safer.
And it will always make you feel small and more afraid.
New Year's Resolutions are systemically flawed...
Why on Earth would you make your choices based on what popular opinion says or what your friends are doing? What possible reason could there be for committing to something because you think you kinda, sorta, oughta do it? And as for deciding to pursue something simply because it’s what’s expected...well, that's just plain silly.
So why do this stuff? Why make New Year's Resolutions that either won't work, or will make you feel just that little bit worse?
You make them, because it's easy
Making a New Year's Resolution you know won't last is easy. You know that you can go through the motions for a month or so, then go right back to doing what you've always done.
You're never really invested in it, because it never really meant much to you in the first place.
But even though it's easy and risk-free, when you go back to your old ways it leaves you with the feeling that you fell a bit short, or even failed.
Instead of half-heartedly making a New Year's Resolution, something you think you kinda-oughta do, look at what actually amounts to a hill of beans.
What do you want to matter to you in the year ahead? Health? Friendships? Confidence?
Look at what matters to you, look at the kind of experience you want to have, and make meaningful decisions to engage.
You make them, because you feel guilt or shame
Guilt and shame are powerful friends of yours.
Guilt is that sense of discomfort you get when you hold up something you've done or haven't done against your values. You just know that it wasn't right for you, or that you "should" have played it differently or better.
Shame is that sense that you're not good enough and worthy of love or belonging. It's the fear that you'll never really belong, or will always get rejected.
When you try to make a New Year's Resolution in response to these, you typically end up getting real close to those feelings, and all the thinking and behaviours around those bubble up like they always have, taking you right back to square one.
First, you have to get to know when you're being driven by feelings of guilt or shame.
Guilt will create discomfort that might be easier to push away, while shame will give you that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach that either make you want to fit in, or make you want to disappear.
Notice when these experiences bubble up, and don't judge them for being there. Instead, recognise that you get to choose how to respond to them. You get to decide what happens next. You get to decide what has meaning, and what doesn't.
You get to make a choice based on everything you are, everything you've achieved, and all the possibility that's open to you. That's where you get to make great decisions that fuel meaningful change.
You make them, because it's once a year
You pin it all on one day per year. One day when you'll transform yourself and your year. One day when it will all magically come into focus and make everything peachy.
Of course, it doesn't work like that. Waiting all year to do something or make a change makes zero sense. It's like waiting until May 25th each year to wash your underwear, because, well, that's just the day of the year when that happens, right?
When you put it all on January 1st, you're not only piling on a lot of pressure and expectation, but you're also neglecting every other opportunity you have at every other moment in the year.
Get to know what's working and what isn't. The stuff that you're tolerating instead of changing. The stuff you're struggling against instead of making things simpler. The stuff you're beating yourself up for instead of accepting.
Keep an eye on that stuff, and know where the levers are. You can run an experiment from Monday to Sunday to see what happens. You can make a meaningful choice over breakfast, or dinner, or any other time. You can see things in a new way, at any moment you choose.
Engaging with your ability to make a meaningful choice is the entire point. And you never need to wait for that.
Do what matters...
Forget about New Year's Resolutions, and instead, do things that matter.
Don't make the same old, tired resolutions that either don't matter a jot or hide something more important.
You deserve to give yourself the opportunity to make a choice based on what truly matters to you. Have that choice be honest, have it be relevant, have it mean something to you.
And then, get stuck in. Because it’s fun. Because it fascinates you. Because it tantalises. Because it makes you feel whole. Because it matters. Because you might win.
Don’t you dare sell yourself short by making New Year's Resolutions again.