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The No Resolution New Year

by Abby Montanez
resolution

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of reading articles about New Year’s resolutions. Particularly ones that reference turning over a new leaf or ordering a box of detox teas and bullet journal. And you know what else? I’m sick of hearing about people’s failures. It’s boring to talk about the places you haven’t been to, cigarettes you shouldn’t have smoked and how you’ll try harder to do better—to be better.

This year, I’m not buying it. I’m not chalking my behavior up to a specific day or month. I won’t be making plans to mold my life in a new way or criticize the actions of year’s past. Why? Because resolutions haunt us, like unfinished projects or half-read books. The dawning of a new year brings with it pressure to conform—to be thinner, healthier, richer—and we’re surrounded by fairytale success stories of immense weight loss and grand career changes. But why should we wait to reinvent ourselves? Why can’t we, in the here and now, set aside time to reset.

Having said that, this drive to fix ourselves, I’ve noticed, always comes on particularly strong around the holidays when our lives begin to spiral. The bills pile up, family starts to visits, things become chaotic and messy. During this time, we’re more likely to reflect upon our achievements, or lack thereof, especially if we feel like we’re not measuring up in comparison to others. That’s why when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, we try to make things right again. Or some of us resolve to do a five-day juice cleanse, but that’s a story for another time.

What I mean is, this year I am focusing on change instead of improvement. Improvement suggests that we’re unable to accept life as it is or ourselves as we are. It means that something must be bad in order for it to get better. It requires action—a resolution, if you will. Change is different. It comes on its own, at any point in time, and there’s no telling if it’s for the better or worse. It’s about taking the good with the bad and all the little bits in between. It’s about being in the moment.

Do you know why we even started making resolutions in the first place? Because 4,000 years ago in Babylon, during a 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, people would reaffirm their loyalty to the reigning king and make promises to the gods to repay their debts. If they kept their word, good fortune was destined for the coming year.

I think it’s safe to say that our priorities have shifted and our pledges, significantly less deity driven and substantially more self-serving. There has been and always will be negative feelings we can alleviate, uncomfortable circumstances we can avoid, debts that need repaying and so we vow that something has got to give. But down the line, maybe we forget about those promises or life may take us on a different path. Sometimes we simply stop caring and give up. But year after year, we set out to right those very same wrongs, oftentimes coming to the same outcome. We don’t have to do that anymore.

I’m not trying to throw away the hope and expectation of positive growth, but this wouldn’t be the only outdated concept in recent discussions that needs reconsidering. Resolutions, I’ve come to find, often do more harm than good. They take up space in our brains, they put weight on our shoulders and make us feel worse about ourselves when or if we fail.

And then, of course, there are those who succeed. There’s not many, but somewhere around 8 percent of the population. If that number sounds discouraging, that’s because it is. That means of the total amount of people who actually make New Year’s resolutions, whether they’re unhappy with their friends or their job, 92 percent of them stay unhappy. Why aren’t we focusing on those people? Or on the fact that we believe we can erase the errors of year’s past just by wishing them away or making a list of our dissatisfactions.

What if we were free from all that? We could try substituting future resolutions with real-time observations, memories and ideas instead of have-nots. Maybe our lives would even, dare I say, become enjoyable as a result? I bet if we lived fuller, rounder days there wouldn’t be time to formally prepare for whatever shifts may or may not come our way. We just have to be open to thriving in moments of quiet or chaos.

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