‘Tis the season for resolutions, and if you’re anything like me, committing to one might make you feel a little wobbly. How will it go? How will it feel? Will I be able to stick to it?
On any given day, and particularly on any given January 1, the following list of habits I want to change runs on a constant cycle through my brain: eat less, hydrate more, scroll less, read more, text less, write more, nap less, sleep more, sit less, move more…the list goes on and on. The cacophony in my head makes me want to just reach for the M&M’s and see what’s new on Netflix. It’s a list that’s too long and too complex to conquer all at once but somehow, I never let go of the illusion—or delusion—that I just might…. So for years I would start every January 1 with a long list of resolutions.
It seems, however, that resolutions are made to be broken. Research shows they are not a very successful route to lasting change, and that the vast majority of resolutions do not stick. Statistics on failure rates range anywhere from 50 to 80 percent, depending on the source, and January 17 has earned the unofficial title “Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day” or, more succinctly, “Quitters’ Day.” The high expectations that go along with resolutions—and the crushing lows that can come with failure—dash our hopes and make us resolve either to try harder (a fruitless task unless we change the fundamental approach) or, perhaps worse, stop trying all together.
With the outlook so bleak, it seems to me that changing the way we think about our resolutions might just be the best resolution of all.
A New Approach
The biggest problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they are typically very black and white and leave no room for error. On December 31 we might be in the habit of sitting for nine waking hours a day and staring at screens for seven of those hours, yet we resolve that starting the VERY next day (and forever more) we will move our bodies every single hour and limit our Instagram time to 30 minutes. These massive changes are neither realistic nor sustainable.
What if, instead, we just walked a little more and scrolled a little less? What if the changes we make were nudges toward newness rather than a giant lunge toward a whole new you?
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