Let me say something that might sound a little cynical: I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.
I know, I know. I’m the Scrooge of New Year’s. But it honestly drives me crazy whenever I hear about the whole “my resolutions for this year” thing, because often, people give up on their resolutions after just a few days.
Oh boy. Here comes the guilt trip.
No, no. I’m not going to shame you. In fact, I’m going to tell you that it’s not even your fault that you’re not keeping your resolutions—at least, not fully.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for keeping promises, including self-promises. But not keeping your resolutions doesn’t even have to do with willpower, really.
Um, explain that one.
Your Life As A Road
Imagine that your life is one big, long road. Every ten miles represent one full year. You’ve been walking consistently on a flat road, with no hills at all, for ten miles.
But suddenly, at the end of every ten miles, the road forks, and you have two paths to choose from. One way, the road impossibly shoots up at a 90-degree angle so that you find yourself standing in front of a 20-foot cliff that you have to scale up if you want to keep going. The other way is just the same, flat road.
Which way would you choose?
The flat road, obviously. How crazy do you think I am?
…I’m still not following you.
How We’re Setting Ourselves Up for Failure
If you follow a consistent, stagnant path throughout the year, and then suddenly expect yourself to accomplish a massive goal at the start of every new year, you are setting yourself up for failure. You are forcing yourself to choose between scaling a massive cliff or just walking the same old road.
When you only consider self-improvement and personal development on New Year’s Day, you are setting yourself up for being stuck in your ways. How can you suddenly give up every ounce of junk food when you’ve eaten it all year or hit the gym every day for two hours when you’ve never even had a gym membership before?
Remind me again how that’s not my fault?
Hey, I said not fully your fault. And I mean this: our culture is crazy about New Year’s resolutions. Everyone encourages them, and often, we feel pressured to make one every year, and post about it on Facebook just to let everyone know that we have one. And sometimes, we’ll even say around November, “I’m just going to do whatever I want until New Year’s, and then I’ll accomplish my goals.”
We’re all so enamored by New Year’s resolutions that we forget the importance of self-improvement throughout the year. And it’s not just you—it’s your neighbor, it’s me, it’s everyone.
No More 20-Foot Cliffs
Why is it that we think we only have to make resolutions on New Year’s? Self-improvement doesn’t only have to happen at the beginning of the year. In fact, we should always be working to improve ourselves.
Now imagine that your life is just slightly uphill, all the time. No cliffs—just a consistent walk-up. The hill isn’t enough to make you exhausted but gives you a nice little burn in your calves that reminds you that you’re always working up towards your goal. And by the end of that ten miles, you are so much higher up than when you started.
That sounds nice.
Yes, it does. But if we only pay attention to our goals at the end of the year, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. No one wants to scale a 20-foot cliff.
Related: 7 Ways to Start a New Habit
Now, if we work to continuously improve ourselves throughout our years instead of making unrealistic goals only on January 1st, we will not only reach our goals but surpass them.
Our culture likes to pretend that we embrace self-improvement, but New Year’s resolutions are just making the whole thing harder. Make resolutions for yourself every day. Always work towards bettering yourself—don’t just save it for January.
And that’s why when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I say: bah, humbug.
Photo by cortto