Sticking to a New Years resolution, or more broadly, engaging in any attempt at healthy personal growth, is all about knowing yourself. Even with the best intentions, promises are heavily wont to failure if they directly defy who you inherently, inarguably are as a person. The idea of “reinvention”, at New Years or any other time, is utter bullshit and promotes the idea that certain people have nothing good going for them and would be best served to throw out the whole damn thing and start from scratch. Like, your life has been a waste. You are wrong. Start over and be totally different, please. What is this fuckery? Change, in its most potentially successful form, is about making little adjustments. It’s fine-tuning an already pretty solid machine. You are already a pretty solid machine. The idea that we ever need to abandon everything about ourselves and construct an entirely new, more pleasing persona is not only disempowering, self-hating nonsense that reinforces a heinous notion that there is only a very limited range of ways to be an acceptable human, but it’s also impossible. For the most part, you are who you are. Change is possible, and inevitable. It can be steered in a positive direction if you are honest with yourself about who you are and set your sights on making yourself a better functioning machine. You can change your clothes, but you gotta love your bones, baby.
So anyway, here’s how to not blow it.
Focus more on picking the right strategy for you
The success of any effort at self-improvement hinges on knowing not just what you need to change, but how best to change it. The “how” is not the same for everyone. Example goal: To stop smoking (you fucking quitter. Give me your extras.) Triumphantly accomplishing this requires different tangible steps for each person; maybe you tend to only smoke when you drink, so for you, killing that dirty habit might be as simple as avoiding bars for a while, or going to non-smoking establishments with non-smokers until the craving eventually leaves you. This strategy wouldn’t work at all for someone who, for instance, relies on smoke breaks to punctuate their workday. For them, figuring out some other ten-minute, healthier, replacement ritual would be a better path to quitting. Essentially, no matter what your goal is, the clearest path to getting there is a very personal thing. Capitalizing on your strengths, and being compassionately aware of your weaknesses is how you get shit done.
Don’t resolve to do things that depend on you suddenly having a lot more time or money
If your resolution is prefaced by, “When I have more money…”, there is definitively no chance it will happen. I would bet money on it. Which would be helpful because I’m totally going to join a gym when I have more money.
Don’t get a resolution buddy
When are we going to stop thinking this idea works? Here’s how this shit goes in theory: “Okay, we’re going to go to pilates 3 days a week, every single goddamn week, and we will both do it so we can literally murder each other’s faces if we try not to go.” Again, theoretically, this is a solid plan; on days when your energy is dragging and you are losing sight of the dream, you have someone else to encourage you and keep you going. The problem is that humans suck and are lazy, and far more likely than encouraging each other to keep up the good work toward your mutual goal, you’re going to validate each other’s excuses to slack off, and then quit altogether. And what started as “this will be an easier resolution to keep because I have someone else to shame me into staying on track” almost always turns into “I feel less guilty about quitting because I have someone else quitting with me and we can laugh about it over drinks” by about mid-February (I’m being so generous with that date, pets.)
Don’t vow to “lose weight”
Let me start by saying the necessary: By now, none of us has any excuse to continue worshipping at the bullshit altar of Smaller Equals Better And One Body Ideal Fits All. We’re done with that in 2014, and really, we should feel a little ashamed that it took us this long. That said, I’m not claiming that losing weight is always a bad thing; if it’s a matter of being healthier and feeling better, then go for it. The real point here is to not be too vague about your goals and how you plan to go about achieving them, and I feel like health/weight related resolutions tend to be rife with ambiguity, which, in addition to food being fucking DELICIOUS, is one of the big reasons New Years diets fail hard and often. The trick is to be as specific as possible. If you want to “lose weight”, spin that off into two (or more) more detailed resolutions – one is what you really want, and the other is how you’re going to get it; “I will fit into this dress I love in time to wear it on my birthday in August” and “I will join CrossFit”. Whatever your desired result is, you’re way more likely to actually get it if you are as focused as possible about what “it” is, and make an actionable plan to get it.
Don’t make resolutions to impress someone else
If you want to learn Italian because you want to study abroad there or you’re fixated on the idea of watching Senilità sans subtitles, then do that shit. But if you’re doing it to impress this hot dude/girl who happens to speak Italian (or for whatever reason would be impressed with your ability to speak Italian. You get where I’m going.), then this is a doomed project. Eventually, you’re probably not going to care about this person, and Rosetta Stone is expensive as fuck. I’m wholeheartedly in favor of the notion that the people in our lives open us up to new things and relationships can be a catalyst for learning and growth; that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about throwing yourself into a pursuit that holds no interest to you for the sole purpose of appearing more appealing to someone you’re genitally attracted to.
Side note: Resolutions that are aimed at getting someone to like you are generally a fat waste of time anyway. We might all have a list of qualities we would like in a prospective partner but when it comes down to it, we’re little more than animals running around reacting to the chemical compatibility of each other’s scents. We’re going to almost always throw our entire list of prerequisites out the window as soon as we catch of whiff of someone special. Point being, suddenly acquiring an expert knowledge of college football isn’t going to make magic appear between you and your crush if it didn’t exist before.