Resolutions: Tool for Success or Useless?

We’re really coming down to the finale of 2018. I said it once or twice before, but I really can’t quite grasp how fast this year has gone by. A lot has happened, in my personal life and out there in the great wide world, and when I think about it, “change” has been the way to describe all of it. I know that everything changes, but in the broader picture, I’ve experienced more of it now than I ever have before.

So considering that we’re on the brink of 2019, I thought I’d chat a little bit about resolutions. I can recall, back to when I was a kid, making resolutions for the new year. It went from “getting good grades” and “try to be a nicer person” to “exercise three times a week” and “(still) try to be a nicer person.”

According to Statisticbrain, almost half of us make resolutions for the new year. The amount of people who are successful in keeping their resolution for the ENTIRE year…is only 8%… (go ahead and lump me into that category, if you would.)  Nearly 40% of those who make resolutions are making weight and health related resolutions. I’m not surprised there. How many times have we told ourselves we’re going to eat better or exercise more? I tell myself that every morning and by the time I have pizza for breakfast, I resolve to try again tomorrow! Other top resolutions include:

  • Get out of debt and spend less money
  • Travel to new places
  • Quit smoking
  • Learn something new
  • Drink less

So are resolutions a way to get us motivated for a new year? I definitely agree that they are. But I’ll admit that making a resolution at the beginning of the year and expecting myself to stick to it usually just ends in failure. Then I feel worse about myself since I can’t seem to live up to my own expectations. It’s a double edged sword: we’re inspired and excited but then disappointed because we can’t seem to focus or achieve what we set out to. So do we abandon the resolution?

Optimistic much?

A few years ago I decided that I wasn’t going to make resolutions anymore; I was going to set goals for the new year. Also, I decided that barring a major health scare or direct instructions from my doctor to change my diet and exercise routine, I told myself that if I wanted to work out every day, then I would. If I wanted to eat mac and cheese every day for a month, I would. I’m an adult and I understand that living a healthy lifestyle will help me live a better life. But I am also an adult and I understand that every day I get to make choices that all connect to one end goal: my total happiness. There is a balance.

One of my past goals was to make a box. Every day, I would write a note to myself about something good that happened to me that day. It didn’t have to be an epic adventure or life changing moment. One note could simply read that I got out of bed and made it to work on time. Another would read that someone complimented me on my dress. I did fall off the wagon, but I am proud to say that I made it all the way to August before I gave up on it. On one of my really bad days in the very recent past, I decided that I needed to open the box. I needed to experience some things from the year that I knew were going to be positive.

I’ll tell you that I was not prepared for what happened when I opened that box. It was incredible. I got to experience all of the poignant, important, and simply happy things that happened to me this year all over again. I cried a lot reading some of the things I had written. There were a lot of things that I had forgotten about until I unfolded that little piece of paper. Here are just a few of the things I told myself:

“No matter what kind of day it has been, talking to Nanny always makes me feel better. I love her so very, very much.”

“It’s okay to talk yourself up. It’s okay to agree with people when they say nice things about you.”

“Went to DCPA with Megan and saw ‘Once.’ How funny to find that it was exactly two years since we saw it together on Broadway in New York.”

“Create peace. Don’t worry about love. Once you have peace, the rest will fall into place.”

“Nothing like sitting on the couch eating junk food and watching Netflix.”

“Amanda, thank you for making me smile, laugh, for being there to talk and to help me in general. I will miss you dearly.” (From a former coworker.)

I wrote a lot about things that other people told me that had made me feel good, that had made me feel loved, and that had made me feel appreciated. I also wrote a lot of notes that were far more introspective than I remember. I wrote a lot about how despite having one bad day, or a few bad days, I am living an incredibly blessed life. Like I mentioned, this year was a year of big change.

I think that I will try the box again. It achieved exactly what I had intended it to achieve: it provided hope and encouragement when I needed it, and it reminded me of just how incredible life can be. What else do I have lined up for the new year? Well, I’m not entirely certain, but I do have a few things in mind:

Get out and hike more.
Spend more time volunteering.
Take at least two classes to extend my education.

There could be more, or these could be it for me. It doesn’t matter, as long as I keep a focus on one thing: it’s all about being happy and doing my best to change this world for the better. Every day I wake up is another day that I have been given to truly live the life that I want. It’s all in my control. That’s terrifying and glorious all at once.

So bring it on, new year.

Amanda Petermann, author

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