Confessions of a Resolution Enthusiast
I need to come clean about something: I’m a resolution junkie. It’s taken me almost thirty years to realize this, but it’s true. Each year, without fail, I sneak away during the final week of December to curl up with my journal and write down all the reasons ‘next year will be the year!’ My hand ferociously scribbles the how’s and why’s I’ll be a better version of myself in the new year. If the pages of my journal could speak, they’d sigh in exasperation.
“Every December, my hand ferociously scribbles the how’s and why’s I’ll be a better version of myself in the new year.”
When January 1 comes, I hold true to my new mantras and mindsets. For a few weeks, the world is my oyster, and I am the very best version of myself (whatever that means). But then, life happens. A resolution gets broken, and I shame myself for being weak. Maybe I get a second wind in the spring. But, by summer, I realize there is no ‘arrival’ or better version of myself waiting in the future; there’s only me, and the present moment.
Despite this, the practice of setting resolutions has always been something I’ve loved. I can’t remember the first time I made a new year’s resolution, but I know I was young. I’m sure if I dug up my old journals, I’d find gel-penned lists with ‘(Insert Year) Resolutions’ underlined at the top of yellowing pages. I’m a Virgo and, while I don’t know a lot about astrology, my coworkers tell me my need for lists and plans isn’t surprising.
“But Kayti,” you ask, “Aren’t resolutions a good thing? Aren’t we supposed to work on ourselves and build healthier habits?” The answer is yes, and the answer is no. It’s nuanced, I’m discovering.
“When I make a resolution, I’m not setting goals, which are fluid and flux and allow for failure.”
You see, when I make a resolution, I’m not setting goals, which are fluid and flux and allow for failure. Rather, I’m fixating on the things I don’t like about myself (or my life) and resolving to change them. Resolutions don’t offer room for growth and transformation in the same way that goals do. Resolutions say, on December 31, I am one person, and on January 1, I’m somebody else (and somebody ‘better’).
Resolutions steal me away from the present and promised moment. I’ve always been fixated on the past (says the Enneagram four), and, only recently have I begun to wonder if my resolution-setting was less about creating healthy goals and more about trying to erase the skeletons in my closet.
‘So long, toxic relationships!’ I’ve resolved with a glass of champagne at more than a few new year’s eve parties. But I don’t need a toast; I need a therapist. Healing from past pains and moving on is not a one-night decision made with my journal or with my friends. It just isn’t. And while they’re not always thieves of the present moment, resolutions can quickly become portals for which we leave the here and now.
“Resolutions, even when made with the best intentions, trick me into believing that I can control and manipulate my life.”
If I can’t change my past, I definitely can’t control my future—despite what many self-help books and podcasts preach. Absolutely nothing is promised except the air I’m breathing at this exact moment. Resolutions, even when made with the best intentions, destroy this mentality and trick me into believing that I can control and manipulate my life.
Moreover, unlike goals and intentions, resolutions highlight my dissatisfactions, not my aspirations. When I’m always mulling over what I don’t like about my life, it’s nearly impossible to be mindful of the present moment. Of the what is. Of the here and the now.
Is it possible that my resolutions have actually been holding me back when I thought they were necessary for carving out my future? Yes. I see now that I’ve been making resolutions for all these years because I’ve feared my present, in-this-moment self. And I don’t want to live like that anymore.