When did the expectation really start for New Year’s resolutions? What is it, that makes people feel obligated to set goals for each new year? Is day one of every year more important than every other day?
Apparently, it was the ancient Babylonians who began this trend about 4,000 years ago. Thanks Babylon. They were also the first people to celebrate the new year. By the way, their new year began in March, when they planted crops. So, you still have time if you want a “do over.”
When I first started thinking about goal setting and the new year, I started mentally pulling out all my counseling tools, tactics, methods, and modalities for goal setting. I’m kind of pragmatic, so that is how I tend to start. I write things down, make lists and try to put a plan into action. I do agree that writing down a goal is a great way to start the process of commitment.
However, I want to share a slightly different perspective on the whole New Year, goal-setting frenzy with you.
- You don’t have to set a goal or New Year’s resolution. You just don’t. There is nothing magical about January 1st each year that makes it any more, or less, important than any other day of the year. It’s just a day. We have 365 each year. Every single day is an opportunity to decide to make a change or set a goal. You can do it of course, but you are not limited to January 1st. Nor are you required to do anything just because it’s a new year. I literally cringe whenever I hear people say, “New Year, New You.” We don’t need this kind of pressure, and it really doesn’t work. Again, nothing is more magical about January 1st than any other day. We can decide to change at any time. Change happens when we are ready and want it.
- Don’t make a resolution unless you really want to. We know resolutions fall away for many within days or weeks of the new year, and leave people feeling terrible. I think that is because those people didn’t really want to make them to begin with. Don’t resolve and commit to set a goal, unless it is really something you want. Sure, we may need to lose 10 pounds, but do you really have a burning desire to do that right now, because it is January 1st?
- If you do make a resolution, please be kind to yourself. Give yourself some grace and mercy. Expect to NOT be perfect. Expect to fall. When you fall, it’s not over. You can begin again. You don’t have to stop trying because of a setback. You are also not in a competition with anyone else. You don’t have to have a bigger goal than your friends, or one that sounds cool. Your goals are for you, not for others and not for competitions. That could work in the short term, but it’s not as gratifying as doing something that is important for you.
- Don’t reserve January 1st for the only time to set goals. Start your journey when you are ready. Don’t save up your goals for the first or throw them away after the first. You can start something new on any of the 365 days of each year. If there is something you are passionate about and want to do, you will simply begin at the right time. Beginning is not finishing either. Everything does not need to be perfect to begin. You just need to begin in some way. You can then build on that success.
- Finally, don’t limit your goals to the usual suspects. IF you want to change something in your life, you can. It can be a small and simple thing that means something to you. It does not need to be a grandiose, earth shattering overhaul. Don’t choose weight loss because all your friends are. Don’t choose to eat salad when you hate it and really aren’t interested. What means something to you? What do you really want for you? What will enrich your life? If you find it, start today, or whenever you feel ready. Then begin the journey on your own time. After all, it’s YOUR life to enjoy.