Updated: May 12
This time of the year usually starts with exuberance and good intentions, but quickly turns into a time of self-loathing. You can blame (well-intentioned) New Years' Resolutions, usually set in the heady time between Christmas and New Years' Day.
Yet by the middle of January, they are usually used as a stick to beat ourselves up with.
I'd like to use this as a time to reassess and start over… this time with gentle compassion, a strong goal framework and no pressure to conform.
I was wondering when we will finally give up the idea that setting New Years' Resolutions is an effective way to get goals achieved and boost our self-esteem.
I'm thinking it's not.
It’s tempting to fall into the trap that just because a new year looms before us, like a new chapter in our book of life, we can start afresh and wipe the slate clean.
This feels like the ideal and most magical time to press reset and start again. But that's what the media, celebrities and culture will have us believe.
Don't succumb to the pressure.
This is a contentious thing to say, I suppose, because of my line of work - I help clients set and achieve goals, manage their time more effectively and help them feel good about their productivity so they don't burn out. And here I am poo-pooing the idea of New Years' Resolutions.
But ask yourself this - isn't every new month and every full moon filled with possibilities to start again? Why do we give so much meaning to the 1st of January?
“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” -Mark Twain
I’m all for taking stock… what I am not for is using this time to feel shitty about ourselves because we still haven’t lost the 10kg we vowed we’d lose in 2022. Or for that case, 2021 or 2020.
Because I fiercely believe we can set all the intentions we like, but intentions, without a plan, are just words. They are powerless unless driven by powerful habits.
The striving for perfection rather than progress
Typically, New Years' Resolutions are usually set after a period of real decadence, overspending and overindulging over the festive period - in alcohol, food and fun.
Is that why January feels like the perfect month to start over, wiping the slate clean? To tone it all down and behave ourselves? To become more perfect.
Why put all this pressure on ourselves?
We know that resolutions usually centre around health, wealth and work - They take the form of weight loss, saving more money and living more healthily and soberly. This feels like the time when we are guided by Instagram to be better, more perfect versions of our current selves.
For all its good intentions, I'd like to rather call out this time of year for what it truly feels like.
A golden glow of good intentions followed by a burst of motivation, then a start-stop-start dance of furious activity aligned to the resolution. Then falling off the wagon, berating ourselves for not getting it right, a period of self-loathing, efforts to get back on the wagon, then falling off completely and believing we can never get this right. then a total reversion into old familiar habits.
For the people who are able to sustain their willpower and their resolve, I think you are marvellous. Keep going, because you can teach us a few things.
I speak from experience as well as listen to my clients tell themselves the familiar story that they lack the required self-discipline to sustain their resolutions. Then that becomes a script that plays on repeat the entire year about how they lack willpower and discipline and that they are somehow defective.
New Years Resolutions set us up to fail
Couple that with unprecedented stress, lack of planning and trying to accomplish things that are really big, with no real plan or support system, and I believe we set ourselves up to fail.
That makes us ripe for falling victim to the capitalist marketing machine's tentacles, which work to make us hate ourselves more, we then buy more and land up hating ourselves more.
Welcome to the consumeristic/capitalistic loop.
By all means, use resolutions as a guide for building new habits, but let’s be more discerning about where the resolutions are coming from... internal resolve or external pressure to perform or conform? Or look more societally acceptable?
“The new year stands before us like a book chapter waiting to be written.” Melody Beattie
Why create lists of resolutions, only to feel like failures by the second week of January?
I’m not saying the sentiment is misplaced… it just doesn’t feel feasible or a good use of energy.
Using the New Years Resolution period constructively
When I work with my clients, I like to instead review what went well for them in 2022. I examine the lessons learned and what they'd like to take forward into 2023.
So I ask you - What are the small, incremental habits you want to build, instead of the massive sweeping grand gestures to overhaul your life?
I feel that’s a much more sustainable way of staying on track and moving forward positively and with intention.
What are some simple, yet juicy goals, you want to set that can work as ways to guide you to greater accountability? These are more specific and energy-fuelled goals that light you up rather than become ways to beat yourself up with.
This time of the year is not a time for self-loathing. It’s not a time to feel like a failure because you didn’t get done what you set out to in 2022.
It’s just a time to reassess and start over… with no pressure.
That doesn’t mean you get a free pass, but there is leniency and self-compassion that goes with loving yourself a little more as we come up to this time of resolutions.
“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” -Oprah Winfrey
So ask yourself these questions to take stock of your 2022:
What worked well for you in 2022?
What didn’t work?
What were some of the biggest areas of stress in your life this year?
What did you learn from these incidents?
What are you specifically grateful for during 2022?
What were the habits you developed in 2022?
What are some of the habits you want to break in 2023?
What does success look like to you in 2023? (this doesn’t have to be about money or material possessions or social media followers either)
When were you at your best and loving life this past year? What exactly were you doing?
What were your biggest time wasters in 2022?
How do you want work to look and feel like for you in 2023?
Journal answers to these questions and see what comes up for you. Or join the conversation on our Facebook Group. I’m keen to hear your comments.
Have a happy, peaceful and stress-free new year.
Life is too short to spend another day at war with yourself.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
Plan your 2023 more positively
If you would like to set more positive and effective goals in 2023, why not jump on a call with me and I can take you through the framework I've developed? I can help you move through the overwhelm and bring together a holistic plan that focuses on all areas of your life, and not just your work goals.
Find balance, carve out important time for yourself and focus on the dreams you shelved long ago. Book your free appointment with me here.