Why I’m Not Setting New Year's Resolutions

If trusting yourself is about keeping your promises, why make promises you know you’re not going to keep?

Around this time of year, I’m forced to face this woman I love to hate. She’s thinner (obviously) with better hair and skin and clothes. She’s got piles of cash from books she doesn’t just manage to write but also sell. She nails deal after deal and collaborates astoundingly well with all colleagues in all meetings on all projects for all the companies she works with.

She rescues both the rainforest and orphans while passively making money on the stock market; effortlessly completing her daily seven-mile run; all before breakfast (organic, locally sourced, cooked herself, of course). At night, she dreams in Spanish because she’s bilingual.

Oh, she’s also constantly and madly in love with an incredible partner who coincidentally wants cohabitation and marriage and kids and adventure and freedom at precisely the same timings as her, in a magic bubble where they argue just the right amount and vacation just the right amount and get along with each other’s friends and families and insecurities just the right amount.

This bitch is why I’m not setting New Year’s Resolutions. As soon as she senses the spinal cracks of fresh 2018 diaries being opened, the Ghost of My Better Self rises from the dead of my subconscious, haunting and taunting me with reminders of all that I could have been (and most definitely am not).

Rationally, I know she’s just a projection of vain unfulfilled fantasies in high-definition. Emotionally, I feel powerless come the end of December, because this is her mating season and her siren call is loud.

Resolution-setting becomes a thinly veiled invitation for all My Big Insecurities to take centre stage. What’s not ideal right now? Let’s bring that right on up here! Shine some light on it! Make a magic wish and then a year later, maybe it’ll be different!

You rinse and repeat that old chestnut year after year and nothing shifts. So last December, I decided not to set any resolutions. And I feel calmer and happier and more like myself than I have in a while.

Looking back on the past year, the giggles and spontaneous trips and almost-Disney moments were interlaced with spiky arguments and anxious wobbles that no (balanced) person ever posts about on Instagram or Facebook. People hurt me and I hurt them; good friends lost loved ones; I worried about the same things I’ve been worrying about since forever.

Every time life hit reset, it wasn’t because I held the remote control. Something would happen which made staying the same too painful. As it turns out, maybe you change the most when life forces you to surrender, not because of an arbitrary decision to mimic the calendar turning over a new leaf.

While I’ve stopped believing in resolutions, I believe more than ever in the power of reflection. You get clarity and vision from switching off all distractions; getting out pen and paper to write down everything that worked, hasn’t worked, made you feel great, and made you feel not-so-great. What filled you up; what you’re grateful for; what drained you and what you need to move on from.

This is a practice I believe in the more I do it. What I no longer believe in is trying to ‘fix’ any blind spot through summoning my insecurities to prance around untethered, prompting hollow goal-setting as a solution.

If I set goals too high and don’t reach them, I end up feeling like I can’t trust myself. If trusting yourself is about keeping your promises, why make promises you know you’re not going to keep? Instead, I’ve set intentions, which are about remembering what matters most then making a pact to follow those values, regardless of how the journey unfolds.

The Ghost of My Better Self has her purpose. I’m always going to want to run faster, eat healthier, create more books, become stronger at my job, and so on. She reminds me of that. She’s not real and that’s why she’s powerful: our imagination is strong precisely because it is not based on fact. Going forward, I want my imagination to be something that pulls me forward in a positive way, not a force that punishes me in a harsh way. That was another unexpected lesson of this year.