Goodbye New Years Resolutions

If you made a New Years resolution at the end of last year, chances are good your resolution has already been broken. For those of you for whom this is not the case, I jealously admire your determination and discipline, and you do not need to keep reading. The only New Years resolution I have made in the past several years is not to make any. The reason I have stopped making them is not because I have reached a state of perfection, far from it, just ask my spouse. Rather, the reason is I believe they are not overly effective in creating the change I had hoped for when I made the resolution.

The resolutions we make are difficult to keep often because we base them on fixing one of our faults/flaws (e.g. I eat too much, spend too much, don't exercise enough etc.), we set the expectation too high, and they are often a pass or fail challenge that is accomplished or, more than likely, it is not. Then when we do not manage to live up to our expectation it can lead to berating ourselves and wallowing in our failure until the next December rolls around and we do it all over again.

Don't get me wrong, I think it can be a good thing to set goals to offer some direction for making change. However, New Years resolutions seem to be flawed because they are often not specific enough and they usually focus on our faults.

Instead of making New Years resolutions I have begun a practice introduced to me by some friends with whom I gather to celebrate New Years, in which each person chooses a word to guide them in the coming year. The words are broad enough in meaning to offer countless options for how it might be manifested in one's life. Some examples of words I have chosen recently include connected, engaged, open, and this year's word, "now", which I plan to expand upon in a future article. The word only sets a direction without dictating a specific outcome or a particular path.

I have discovered it is important to be reminded of my chosen word on a regular basis to keep it front of mind. It can be written on a Post-It Note on your bathroom mirror or your computer screen. My word has a prominent place on a drawer of my dresser, which is visible as I prepare for the day. It serves as a quick reminder of a way of being without being prescriptive of things I ought to be doing.

If you have not yet chosen a word, you need not wait until December to do so because it is fitting to pick one any time of year. If you discover your chosen word is not working then change it because the purpose of it is not to limit you, but to experience life more fully. What word describes your desire moving forward?

Chip Bender, Registered Psychotherapist (qualifying)
Interfaith Counselling Centre

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