In Praise Of 'Good Enough' New Year's Resolutions

If you don't have the bandwidth to aim big, that's OK: drinking more water and flossing daily are valid goals.

New Year’s resolutions generally fall into two categories. In one group, you have your big, lofty pledges: mastering a language, doubling your income (in this economy?), completing some impressive physical feat like a marathon or triathlon.

Then there are the little, lazy ones: This year, I pledge to floss daily so I don’t get chastised for the millionth time at my next dental cleaning. Or: In the new year, I’ll drink plenty of water so I’m no longer a dehydrated husk of person.

In 2022, let’s all resolve to make our resolutions shamelessly easy.

Highly ambitious resolution-makers might scoff at such humble year-end goals, but given the general exhaustion we’re all feeling as we wrap up year two of the Covid-19 pandemic, humble goals will do just fine.

Leah Rockwell, a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania and Maryland, agrees.

“If ever there is a year to focus on less being more, this might be the one,” she told HuffPost. “In uncertain times, anything that we can do to create more ease and room for joyful possibility, the better, even if this means setting very basic, tiny goals. One baby step forward is still progress.”

Plus, after the one-two punch of 2020 and 2021, putting any grand expectations on 2022 feels like you’re just asking to be let down. Low-effort is the way to go.

As the writer Sarah Lazarus joked on Twitter: “no new years resolutions. it is the circumstances turn to improve.”

no new years resolutions. it is the circumstances turn to improve

— Sarah Lazarus (@sarahclazarus) December 16, 2021

If you do decide to make a resolution, experts say to keep it attainable and precise so you don’t overwhelm yourself.

“Going on a 20-minute walk a day could lead to increased mood and improved physical fitness,” said Oludara Adeeyo, an associate clinical social worker and the author of “Self-Care for Black Women.”

On the other hand, “if your goal is too big and broad, like ‘exercise more,’ you can lose focus and become so overwhelmed that you never make moves toward your big goal,” she explained. “Start small and you’ll be rewarded big.”

"I think smaller goals allow you to learn to be more compassionate to yourself," said Oludara Adeeyo, an associate clinical social worker in Los Angeles.
LeoPatrizi via Getty Images
"I think smaller goals allow you to learn to be more compassionate to yourself," said Oludara Adeeyo, an associate clinical social worker in Los Angeles.

For instance, Adeeyo’s 2021 resolution is to go to yoga at least once or twice a week.

“If I go once, I accomplished my goal. If I go twice, I know I hit it out of the park,” she said. “But also, if I don’t go, that’s OK and I have learned to give myself grace. I think smaller goals allow you to learn to be more compassionate to yourself.”

And as we continue to cope with the pandemic, accomplishing and upholding a tiny goal you set for yourself can be surprisingly soul-enriching: You managed to only order Deliveroo once this week, for the third week in a row? Go you!

Erica Neuburger, a convention services manager for Hyatt Regency and Strathallan Hotel and Spa in Rochester, New York, is a longtime low-effort resolution-maker.

“In 2016 I said I was going to start flossing because it was small, didn’t require too much extra work, and I thought it would be nice to stop lying to my dentist,” she told HuffPost.

“I still don’t floss with any regularity, but to be honest I’m definitely doing it more now than I was in 2015 and before,” she joked.

Neuburger hasn’t landed on a 2022 resolution yet, but she intends to keep it equally easy. She doesn’t have the emotional bandwidth for much more than that.

“I like to have definitive goals, but I’ve gotten gentler on myself in how I reach the goals,” she said. “And that’s part of the lower benchmark with resolutions. It’s all well and fine to make resolutions for a new year, but change doesn’t have a calendar like that, and sometimes walking into a new year with self-imposed deadlines can just make it all a bit daunting.”

"I will drink water" is a totally acceptable New Year's resolution.
Maskot via Getty Images
"I will drink water" is a totally acceptable New Year's resolution.

Letícia Marteleto, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, swears by small-scale resolutions, even in non-pandemic times.

“I do it to be able to follow them through,” she told HuffPost. “The more elaborate the resolutions are, the harder it is to really continue with them throughout the year.”

This year, Marteleto is resolving not to take her smartphone into her bedroom at night. Last year, her pledge was simply to drink more water.

“I downloaded an app for that and it was very useful until April,” she said. “By May I wasn’t using the app anymore, and by half year I was done with my resolution.”

Krista Diamond, a writer who lives in Las Vegas, is taking the easy route as well. She’s got hydration on her mind ― though admittedly, she said, “drink more water” has been her resolution for the past three years.

“I bought a new, shockingly expensive water bottle with time stamps to keep me on track now, though,” she said. “And I am feeling optimistic.”

After two years of pandemic living, Diamond thinks choosing a resolution that’s not only achievable, but capable of making your life better, is a win-win.

“Yes, I’d like to publish a novel this year, but placing that goal under the umbrella of ‘New Year’s resolution’ enforces an artificial timeline that feels more capitalistic than artistic,” she said. “Even in a pandemic, our country is obsessed with hustle culture. I don’t want my New Year’s resolution to be a part of that.”

Instead, she said, “I want my New Year’s resolution to be centered around taking care of my body on a most basic level. I’ll start with that and go from there.”

Given how unpredictable and unnerving the world is right now, it’s also OK to resolve to just keep treading water and cope the best you can, said Jennifer Chappell Marsh, a marriage and family therapist in San Diego.

“The current circumstances are so unpredictable that it’s hard to make plans for next week, much less goals you have for 2022,” she said. “If we’ve learned anything from the onset of COVID, it’s that we truly do not know what tomorrow will bring. So yes, it’s 100% OK if your 2022 resolution is to just keep surviving and coping.”