Do daily core exercises, eat more salad and work harder at my degree have been my rather cliché, rather pathetic, New Year’s resolutions for the past few years. By March, I can be seen scoffing a packet of digestives, hunched over at a desk, furiously typing a history essay the night before the deadline. Every year I make resolutions, and every year I break them. I don’t think I’m alone.
New Year’s resolutions date back to over 4,000 years ago, reportedly starting with the Babylonians who made promises to the gods in order to earn good favour over the coming year. Whilst resolutions have become somewhat more trivial today, I’m sure the Babylonians were still very much guilty of breaking their promises three weeks in. As every regular gym-goer witnesses — a breed of human I simultaneously admire and despise — the annual cycle of making resolutions is always crushed by the reality that putting your feet up in front of the telly with a cuppa is a much nicer way to spend your Sunday morning.
Yet I know that every year I will make solemn vows to myself to do better, to be better, because making New Year’s resolutions is so important. Even if you do quit three weeks after making them.
After another year of watching middle-aged men in suits saying “next slide”, making plans and being forced to cancel them, and getting through all the bizarre events and uncertainty, what we all need is hope. New Year’s resolutions provide just that. The act of writing down ways we can improve is inherently hopeful. If we don’t believe that the 1st January will be more promising than the 31st, that tomorrow will be better than today, no steps will ever be taken to improve ourselves and our community. Making resolutions gives you the chance to be optimistic about January — a month which, let’s face it, is about as optimistic as a black hole. Resolutions help you to cultivate a growth mindset.
Making New Year’s resolutions helps you to create a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Accompanying the start of the year is the overwhelming reminder of all the future possibilities, opportunities and changes it could bring. They help you to cut through those distracting thoughts and ‘what-ifs’. The act of making resolutions forces you to focus on what matters the most to you.
We are all so keen to shift blame onto other people. Blame the bartender when you have one too many, blame Chris Whitty for coronavirus. All human beings love to blame anyone and everyone apart from themselves. Resolutions stop this. Whether we succeed or fail, we can only hold ourselves accountable. Resolutions have the power to make us more responsible people — and is that such a bad thing?
So, will this be the year I succeed? I highly doubt it. Without trying to sound like a newly qualified primary school teacher, this year I have thought smarter about how I phrase my resolutions. Instead of ‘getting fitter’, I want to commit to all training sessions. Instead of ‘eating healthier’, I’m challenging myself to prep more meals and batch cook. Instead of ‘doing my degree’, I’m aiming to do six hours of academic work each day. You get the picture. By being more specific and realistic, New Year’s resolutions become a much more attractive prospect.
Even if it is just for three weeks, resolutions make us better human beings. So, whether you’re a resolutions cynic taking pride in the fact that you never bother, or an old-hand like me, make this the year you proudly announce your resolutions to your friends, family and anyone who wants to listen.
What better time than 2022 to be optimistic? To give yourself hope and accountability? It’s a new year, let’s see a new you.
Illustration: Victoria Cheng