An Open Letter to New Year’s Resolutions

Originally published 1/21/2017. Lead Image Credit: Unsplash via Pexels.

You are awesome, and you are awful


This year, I was surprised to meet many adults who weren’t setting New Year’s resolutions. They all had various reasons for doing so, but the most common reason, by far, was “no one ever keeps it.”

If you search online, you’ll see many blog posts and editorials agreeing with this. Certainly, if you listen to anyone talk around New Year’s, you’ll hear the familiar joke that no one ever keeps their New Year’s resolution. I’m not really here to talk about whether or not this is true, although I will quickly say: I normally complete my New Year’s resolutions, it’s all a matter of proper planning and self-management instead of making a vague verbal promise (more on that here); and it doesn’t matter whether or not you fully complete it, because it’s already made you do some amount of work you otherwise would not have done, even if it wasn’t a full year’s worth. Exercising for a single month in a year is better than not exercising at all. But I digress.

No, I’m here to talk about the idea of a New Year’s resolution, why I like it, and why I dislike it.

​Namely, why New Year’s resolutions are awesome, and why they’re also awful.

Dear New Year’s,

You are ​awesome because you motivate people to better themselves. Yes, you alone of all the holidays tell people to decide in what direction to point their lives in the coming year. In China, you are a time to repay debts and get rid of all the (literal) dirt under the rug. In Spain, you warrant the biggest party of the year. But here, you are the holiday of ambition, he holiday of change, the holiday of hope. The holiday of youthful energy that looks to the future instead of the past.

You also suck. For the exact same reason. You make people think that it’s either all or nothing: either you complete your resolution, or you don’t. You’re sound just like me over winter break. “Just wait until you have lots of spare time and do it all at once!” All throughout the year I push away my problems and say “I’ll do it when I have more time over winter break.” You’re just like that but with a whole year! You wanna know when and how people change their lives for the better? In small steps, immediately, not in some lofty “next year.” Instead of making smaller resolutions throughout the year that people can apply to their everyday lives, you trick people into thinking that they should wait. Trust me when I say that the best personal changes I have come by have been small goals that I enact as soon as I decide they’re relevant. I wanted to “be less shy.” I could’ve waited until the New Year, but instead I acted immediately, I started speaking out in class, I started talking to strangers. I took baby steps. Instead of trying to get your whole life together by a set date, it’s much better to fix what’s broken slowly and steadily, not quickly and in one big thrust.

So, New Year’s, I thank you. I also curse you. You are the world’s best idea implemented poorly.

Happy New Year,
Elizabeth R.

If you’re like me and you ended up with lots of tiny resolutions at the start of the New Year, do yourself a favor, and implemented them one at a time. Give each month a New Month resolution. Maybe soon you’ll be able to decide, “I want to be this,” and then start working on it immediately. Because living one day away is no way to live your life.


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