I don’t make New Years resolutions, at least not in the traditional sense.
Towards the end of the year I often make a list of things I want to accomplish (as I did in September’s post “The Land of Misfit Projects”). But I do not pledge changes to my lifestyle. I will not pledge to eat healthier or take up yoga, join a book club or take the extra 30 minutes to walk to work instead of drive. These are all worthy causes, but if we are really serious about improving ourselves we wouldn’t procrastinate until December 31st to take action.
For example, a few years ago I vowed not to use any “voluntary” products (aka makeup, household cleaning agents, hair and body care, etc.) that test on animals. I really don’t think cats and dogs need to be poked and prodded and hurt just so my mascara is less clumpy or my hair can be shinier. It’s something I really cared about, so I didn’t wait until December 31st of that year to make the change. I just did it.
I’m sure we all have such examples. If something really grabs us as important, we make the change ASAP. As such, the vows we make as New Years resolutions are probably things that thus far haven’t been important enough for us to bother with. So why do we feel that a new calendar year will suddenly imbue them with new value?
Let’s be honest: the reason we make New Years resolutions is because the holidays make us feel guilty. We spent too much money. We ate too many cookies and mashed potatoes. We killed too many forests to make our presents look beautiful. However, these excesses are a fundamental part of what make the holidays special. It is our indulgence that sets the holidays apart from the rest of the year. If we are generally healthy and financially prudent the rest of the year, why not give in to a little temptation?
Guilt-driven resolutions are hard to stick to. Once we hit February and our holiday guilt has been swallowed up by the more pressing concerns of everyday life, our resolutions suddenly don’t seem as important anymore. And we shouldn’t feel bad about this! January doesn’t have magical powers, so let’s not start the year off by lying to ourselves about who we are. When it becomes truly important to us, we will make the resolution and stick to it no matter what date the calendar boasts.
So if you are thinking about making New Years resolutions, make sure they are being made for the right reasons. Guilt: bad. Genuine caring: good.
Happy New Year!