No New Year’s Resolution is the Best Resolution of All

No New Years ResolutionThe best New Year’s resolution is to have no New Year’s resolutions. That’s what I’ve decided.

Last year I wrote a column about how to keep them. Maybe it’s time, however, to rethink New Year’s resolutions altogether. Why pick one time of year to decide to turn things around and live a different kind of life? Why wait ‘til the year ticks up another digit? And why heap it all upon ourselves on the fi rst day of a brand new year? Poor January. Poor us. Why not make life-changing resolutions on the Fourth of July, or Labor Day or Christmas, for goodness sake? Why pile all that undue expectation on ourselves at the same time every year, simply setting ourselves up for failure again and plumbing another opportunity to feel like we haven’t achieved what we set out to accomplish? It’s really not fair to us at all. So why on earth do we do it?

According to a study by psychologist Richard Wiseman, of the 52% who were confident that they would accomplish their New Year’s resolutions, only 12% actually did. So, maybe it is time to resolve instead not to get forced into doing what the media decries, or what the neighbors are espousing or what our siblings say is best. Maybe it is time to say no to all that, and choose instead to do things our own way.

If losing weight is what we are after, why not eat more wisely today? If we want to start jogging, why not grab a pair of running shoes and head out the door right now. If we want to be kinder to those around us, the present moment is as good as any moment to begin. If you think about it, why hold off until the new year to begin anew? When it comes right down to it, it’s really kind of dumb: it is both self-defeating and self-punishing. In essence, we are jumping on the bandwagon just because everyone else is. We are lifting our banner of renewal due mainly to peer pressure.

I bet that even without a resolution we are anxious to adopt, we grab onto one anyway, just because we think we should. This is a critical point and maybe the best New Year’s resolution of all: get rid of all of our “shoulds.” Why do we have a New Year’s resolution? Because we should. Why do we commit to doing things differently in the coming year? Because we should. Why do things this way, rather than that?

Because we should. But truth be told, if we are doing something because we “should,” it isn’t going to work because we are choosing to do it for the wrong reasons. And that is the point; we need to think long and hard about why we want to make changes in our lives, and hold off on embarking on such stiff undertakings until we know we are ready to exert the discipline to do the work it is going to take to be successful. It’s more destructive to take on a challenge that we know we aren’t fully committed to yet, just because everyone else is doing so. Better to wait until we mean it.

I suggest starting the resolution at once. Don’t tarry until January, do it right now. Don’t initiate it at the New Year, start it at this very moment. Why postpone until an arbitrary moment when every second we have a new one, fresh, pure and waiting for us to embrace it with our aspiration for self-actualization. We are naturally driven to be all that we can be when left to our own devices. In every moment we have the choice to listen or not to our internal proctor and follow the instructions that lead to a more healthful and happy road.

Interestingly, each of us is always in a state of becoming. Resolving to move in a positive direction, rather than a negative one, and fully realize our gifts, our potential and our best selves is part of being human and fully alive. New Year’s resolutions are an attempt to move ourselves in that direction, but by holding the hammer of change over our heads, we often end up hurting ourselves rather than healing those darker aspects of self that continue to haunt us.

We do a disservice by “on your mark, get set, going” ourselves, when what would prove productive is to be more tender, more caring, more self-nurturing rather than chastising our every foible, every fault, every presumed imperfection. Eating better, exercising, meditating, slowing down, procrastinating less, being on time, acting kinder to ourselves and others and smiling more are all important and worthwhile pursuits. So it is silly to wait until January 1st every year to start on such commendable campaigns toward self-acceptance and well-being.

If you think about it, every day is the beginning of a new year, a new cycle of 365 days. Every day is an opportunity to make the changes that we long to make to begin the transformation into the “me” we want to be. But don’t carry a big stick. Learn how to shift those gears more gently, more lovingly, in a more conducive way to achieve actual success. And, don’t wait until you want to do it; that day may never come. Without overreaching, simply decide what you want to accomplish: write it down on a list, be specific, make a plan, and keep it simple. Why delay? Start today.

This first appeared in Ambassador Magazine, Detroit, Michigan.

About the Author

Donna Rockwell, Psy.D. Dr. Donna Rockwell, Psy.D., L.P. is a licensed clinical psychologist, adjunct faculty member, community outreach worker, columnist, and mindfulness meditation teacher. Dr. Rockwell specializes in both mindfulness and celebrity mental health. She works with clients in her private practice and teaches public meditation classes. You can watch Dr. Rockwell on YouTube or read more of her blogs at The New Existentialists.

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