Why New Year’s Resolutions are Stupid

Have you ever kept a New Year’s resolution? If you have, hats off to you and you should probably stop reading this article. For the rest of us mere mortals, our enthusiastically proclaimed goals usually tend to die off by mid-January. This is usually when we realize that exercising twice a day and living off carrots for the rest of our lives really isn’t that sustainable after all. We accept that being a swimsuit model most likely isn’t within our grasp and that we probably don’t really want to be one anyway. So why do we set ourselves up for failure like this? And not just on New Year’s, but every time we set impractical and wishful aims for ourselves?

Part of it is our natural sense of renewed vigor at the end of each year; when we see ourselves through all the fresh potential that the New Year holds. This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. We tend to take stock of our successes and failures at this time and it’s natural that we begin to think about where we’d like to grow and improve; again not a bad thing. The problem is that the goals we set ourselves don’t align realistically with where we are or who we are. Rather, these become muddled with society’s ideas of what constitutes success and fulfillment (becoming more aware of our physical well-being is a good mental shift, while aiming to be a size zero in 2015 is missing the point).

While the goals we set ourselves often come from a genuine desire to grow, the way we construct these goals doesn’t respect the universal law that change happens gradually, requiring continual and unrelenting effort.

Focusing on the future and forgetting the present

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they distance us from the continual ever-present process of growth in our lives. They distract us from the fact that we are shaping our realities in every moment as we cast unrealistic and fantastical projections of ourselves into the future. The truth is these fantasies console us because they mean we don’t have to face, or accept, who we are right now in this very moment. We console ourselves in the same way when we binge on bad TV, eat too much or drink too much – everyone has their own personal forms of distraction. Imagining ourselves as richer, thinner or more successful is just another.

The truth is we do grow every year, but not in the ways we expect. By buying into the idea that there is a perfect version of ourselves and of our lives, yet to be achieved, we overlook all of the miracles that happen every day; the ways in which the imperfect situations are the ones that actually make us grow the most, that the present moment is all, and that who we are right now is enough for that. Instead we bash ourselves for not having achieved what we set out to, for giving up so quickly and in this process we block our ability to grow – the very thing we set out to do in the first place.

New Year’s resolutions really are stupid. So here’s a suggestion: this year rather than setting yourself up for inevitable failure, set yourself up for inevitable success. How you might ask? It’s simple. Take a good kind look at who you are in this exact moment. Appreciate everything that has crossed your path to get you to this point. Have no expectations for next year. Rather, stay mindful, stay aware and stay present; inhabiting the fullness of who you are right now. Watch with gratitude and patience as every moment unfolds and trust that your truest nature will emerge.

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