That is the question many of us face as we reflect on the year that was and begin to envisage the year to come. Traditionally, New Year’s Resolutions are the method by which we publically commit to starting, or stopping – or both – certain habits and behaviours that we believe will help us create the life we want to live.
But what does it really mean to make a New Year’s resolution and, should we be doing it anyway? I’ve never made one up until now but, since I always like to try something new, I’ve been musing on the pros and cons. This is what I’ve got so far.
What does it really mean to make a resolution?
Being the language loving nerd I am, I had a look at what the word resolution actually means and discovered, in amongst a surprising number of chemistry related definitions, that resolution most commonly relates to the notion of resolve – both as a verb and a noun.
First, the verb. To resolve something, basically means to solve it. So in this sense, making a resolution is all about identifying a solution to a problem in your life. Perhaps, you’ve run yourself ragged this year, saying yes to everyone else, so you resolve that next year you will do less and always put yourself first.
Of course the key to success here is accurately identifying the problem at its root cause – the why behind why you always say yes when every fibre in your being is screaming no!
As a noun, resolution is to do with determination or strength of commitment. If your resolve is strong, you are committed your decision and, determined to stay the course. Phoning and cancelling the commitments you’ve already made is an example of strong resolve – action follows commitment and you create the space to do what you really want.
So, to make a worthwhile resolution, we need to do all three things:
- Accurately identify what ‘problem(s)’ we are trying to ‘solve’
- Generate an appropriate solution and,
- Actually take the concrete actions that are needed to make our solution work
The pros and cons
But even if we can see how resolutions can work in theory, the question remains as to whether we should be making them at this time, or indeed at all.
The pros, as I see it, are all about the process of reflection and prioritisation. To figure out what’s problematic, missing, not quite right in your life, you have to take some time to consciously reflect on your life and the way you are living it which is generally a good thing.
To identify where your own thoughts or behaviour are contributing factors you need both, the self-awareness to see yourself in the third person and, the emotional maturity to observe yourself without criticising, so you can more objectively identify what you want to change.
To come up with solutions you need to be creative, open minded, willing to ask for help and prepared to try new things. And, to be able to commit, both practically and emotionally to making changes, you need to be able to identify your current priorities. Your real ones that you actually spend the most time and effort on – which might be quite different to the ones you think you have – and, where necessary make a change.
So, for example, if you keep telling people that your health is a priority but, what you’re actually doing is existing on take-out, working late every night and never getting enough sleep, then it’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself about:
- What the problem really is here? Are you working all the time because you really care so much about your career or is something else going on?
- What options could you create to change the situation? If your health is really a priority what do you need to do to make sure you focus on it first? And be creative, good health isn’t just about eating well and exercising. A good social life is key to wellbeing so maybe start with arranging to meet friends after work at least once a week and go from there.
- What is really important to YOU and, if necessary adjusting your priority list accordingly. If it turns out that your job really is more important to you than your health at this point in time, there is nothing to be gained by pretending otherwise.
Because, if you don’t that impressive list of resolutions you come up with can quickly become just another stick with which to beat yourself when you inevitably fail to put a single action into play… because you didn’t really want to. And that is a true con, in all senses of the word.
Timing is everything
Even if you never make a single resolution, the process of honestly reflecting on your life, identifying your true priorities and, making a conscious decision about whether or not you want anything to change is a valuable one.
But, that doesn’t mean you have to make your resolutions on New Year’s Day. Sometimes this process can take a lot longer than a couple of days and, to cut that short simply so you can adhere to some arbitrary deadline, is just plain silly especially when you consider that January 1st is just one of the many New Year’s Days celebrated around the world throughout the year.
But most importantly, don’t get so caught up in reflecting on the past or pondering the future that you disengage from the present. Focus first on having a fabulous festive season! Celebrate your successes, count your blessings and connect with those who most matter to you.
Anything beyond that is a bonus 🙂
Tricia Alach is a career and life coach & wellbeing professional who specialises in helping busy people create happier, healthier & more fulfilling lives. To learn more about what she offers visit www.flowmindandbody.com or connect via Instagram, facebook, or @triciaalach