Eating healthier, managing our finances and traveling to new places were some of the many New Year’s resolutions we set at the beginning of 2020. However, with a pandemic, a national reckoning with racial justice and a historic presidential election, 2020 turned out to be unlike any other year. The goals we had set for ourselves when the clock struck midnight now seem arbitrary, abstract and inappropriate.
We began to think that in an unpredictable world, resolutions only lead to regret and dissatisfaction. This change in perspective forced us to ask, are we even doing resolutions anymore? Perhaps, the answer to that question lies in a greater one: Why do we do New Year’s resolutions?
For many of us, New Year’s resolutions are goals that, when accomplished, ostensibly make us feel happier. We believe that they allow us to attain an elusive, out-of-reach perfection: losing weight to “feel more attractive,” sleeping more, working harder, etc.
When we fall short and do not accomplish these goals, we begin to beat ourselves up and feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Even if we achieve a goal, instead of celebrating our accomplishment, we immediately look for the next box to check.
With this in mind, personal goals might seem pointless. However, the fact that we are imperfect beings illuminates how self-improvement is an always continuing journey. Equivalently, when we attempt to break down bigger goals into smaller chunks, resolutions become useful guidelines for our process of bettering ourselves.
Thus, we must ask ourselves what we are actually trying to improve and set resolutions that are not arbitrary and will bring happiness directly. Instead of relying on external factors to help you accomplish a New Year’s resolution, find a small change in action that you think will make your life better. Fortunately, 2020 confirmed that being content and truly appreciative of life lies in ourselves and in the connections we establish with people.
Once we adjusted our routines to the new normal, things we usually wouldn’t appreciate in a fast-paced life began to mean the world to us. I saw that happiness lies in the smallest of things, such as feeling close to our loved ones, observing the change of seasons, going on walks, cuddling our pets and binge-watching a well-crafted TV show.
In return, I realized what matters most in life. What I thought needed adjustment and counted as self-improvement have fundamentally changed.
So, let me ask again: Are we even doing resolutions anymore? If the certain change you are looking for will help you feel happier on a daily basis, then yes, go for it! But if you are doing the resolution because you think you “should,” then maybe not.
Perhaps the better question is, are we even doing resolutions we know will not make us feel any better? NO.
Instead, I plan to set realistic goals that I can actually attempt to accomplish. Goals that, when achieved, will make me feel like a better person. And to do so, I will start with a fresh mentality and be mindful that the toll of living amid a pandemic, during which social and racial inequalities are exacerbated, is costly. Attempting a resolution might not end successfully.
Instead of setting out resolutions such as not eating junk food, think about the small and incremental steps you can make. What if you only eat junk food twice a week? The moment you begin to set incremental goals, you will see that change comes with time.
By becoming more grateful for the little things, you will also allow yourself to fail. You’ll find that forgiveness comes naturally from your failures, and with forgiveness, happiness is inevitable.
I hope that the mindful resolutions you set at the beginning of 2021 allow you to blossom and remind you why you are doing resolutions in the first place.
Happy new year!