New Year’s Resolutions Get Real
The Truth About New Year's Resolutions
Happy New Year, one and all! 2016 has been put to bed, and 2017 is still a gleaming, hazy dream full of possibility. This is it! The time has come to dump off all your bad habits, and transform into fabulous paragons of grace and wit and success! Throw aside your glasses, everyone - all us Clark Kents are going Superman 24/7.
Oh, wait, you need those glasses to see? Shoot, me too. Did anyone see where mine landed?
Okay, so maybe we shouldn’t race toward complete transformation. What we’re looking for is leveling up, right? Becoming our best selves is a worthy goal - so maybe less Clark Kent or Superman, and more Kal-El.
That’s a much better idea, because…
New Year's Resolutions don't work
Successful New Year’s resolutions are the exception rather than the rule, and anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something. (Yes, yes, I know that last bit’s a line from The Princess Bride. Still super-accurate.) According to the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, for example, over 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions and only 8 percent of them manage to follow through on their goals.
Those aren’t encouraging numbers, but they make sense. Too often, people go hog wild over resolutions and make too many at once - and they’re not small, sensible resolutions either. No, it’s quit smoking, get up at 7 AM to run every day, and no more processed sugar! Or no more red meat, a kibosh on caffeine, and work out at the gym daily after work! Even one of those is a hard goal to make every day, and you’re positioning yourself to feel defeated when you stumble.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use the New Year as a springboard to improve yourself - far from it. It’s a great demarcation point to springboard off of, but you must be realistic, set specific goals for yourself, and start small.
Real Change Starts Small
“千里之行，始於足下” is often translated as “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and that’s the perfect metaphor for anybody trying to do anything ever. To succeed at a hardcore resolution - like cut out red meat or stop smoking - or even to learn a new skill, you must start small. Oh, and rewire your brain.
You didn’t know this was going to get into mad science, did you? Well, the references to comic book characters in the first paragraph should have been a clue. If “rewire your brain” makes you think uncomfortably of Tesla coils and operating slabs in creepy labs, just think of it as “changing your thinking” instead. Which we just did with this paragraph: discomfort gone, open-mindedness in.
Seriously, though, changing a habit or learning a new one is all about changing the way you think. Instead of defaulting to a smoke when nervous or tired or just because, you redirect yourself to another activity - like sucking on hard candy, coloring, or exercise. Make those new choices often enough, and they become the default. Psychology Today has some more great information on choosing and creating real change with your New Year’s resolutions.
Choose to Learn New Skills
So many of our New Year’s resolutions focus on changing who we are, without necessarily taking into account who we want to be. We make resolutions based on who we think we should be, and that’s no good for anyone. Remember: we’re not interested in pretending to be Clark Kent anymore, or endlessly performing as Superman. We’re looking for our Kal-El. Okay, forget metaphor: we’re looking for ourselves.
Alongside any health improvement changes you may be considering - worthy goals indeed - let me suggest a new kind of resolution. Learn a new skill. Something that makes you feel engaged or beautiful or competent. Start learning a new language, or how to knit. Better yet, teach yourself to give killer manicures or learn a new hair braiding style. Finally figure out eyeliner or develop your fashion sense and style. Focus on being creative and having fun, and you’ll find yourself along the way.
Think you can never match your beauty inspirations online? First, never try to match someone else. Do your own thing, and own it. See above about creativity and fun. Then, start small. Like with manicures and nail art: start with getting in the habit of keeping your nails healthy and shaped. Once you’re regularly oiling and filing, gradually add color - just one, at first, until polish-application is easy for you. Then it’s time to start playing with more colors or decals or incredible nail art tutorials you find online. And if you discover your hands just aren’t steady enough, or you don’t have the patience for regularly-painted or decorated nails? Then you source some killer nail wraps, and learn something else.
It’s your life. Live it.
Now hit the comments and tell us what you plan to learn in the New Year.