Should I Set A Resolution, and How?

Lisa Martens

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Every year, we set goals to try to improve the year ahead. For 2021, the most common resolutions center around a healthier lifestyle: exercising more, eating healthier, and cutting down on alcohol make the cut for most common resolutions this year.

Other common resolutions include reducing stress, spending more time on relationships, and improving job performance. But after 3 months, only 10% of people think their resolutions will last.

So should we set resolutions? Are they helpful, or are they harmful?

The Good

Setting a resolution can help one examine their habits. A new year is a good time for reflection: Do you want the future to look like the past?

When a resolution centers around changing your lifestyle, building new, fun habits is key.

If you're trying to eat better, but keep forcing yourself to have the same salad over and over again, you're going to break down when you see the variety of foods everyone else is eating. Creating fun and variety in new habits is essential to sticking to them.

If you're having trouble with a resolution, try to find a way to make it fun instead of painful. Turn those workouts into something pleasant, instead of a chore.

You can choose to focus on the parts you dislike, or you can make habit-changing pleasant for yourself with activities you enjoy.

Instead of: "I can't eat anything I want to eat."

Try: "I will eat something new and exciting every day, and create dishes I've never made before."

Instead of: "I reward myself with alcohol, so how am I going to know I did a good job for working hard?"

Try: "I will reward myself with something else, like a coffee, a new book, or a new shirt."

Many times, we only see the difficult parts of the task at hand, especially when it comes to changing our ways.

No one is making you create a resolution. You're making it because it's something in your life that you want to change.

Today, I saw someone literally jump and and down with joy at seeing their brother for the first time since the pandemic began. It made me think about the last time I was so excited that I had to jump for joy.

Shouldn't we feel the same way about the new habits, and the new life we are going to create? Why can't we jump with joy at the idea of eating well, of exercising more, and enhancing our relationships with other people?

Instead of seeing our resolutions as shackles preventing us from having fun, they can be exciting incentives to explore our world and ourselves.

Viewing our resolutions and the new year as a thrilling beginning can help us create fun habits and shake up our stale routines.

The Bad

Putting undo pressure on oneself can lead to burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression. Sometimes, our resolutions are too intense and exteme: Become a millionaire. Lose 50 pounds. Write a best-selling novel.

Too often, we expect our resolutions to completely change our lives. But change does not happen in a day. Making a little more money...or networking within your industry...is better than no improvement at all. Eating better and exercising more is better than staring at the scale and becoming upset if the number does not move. Writing a bit every day is actually a difficult and satisfying goal by itself, without the pressure of publishing.

When we make our resolutions about a numeric goal, or about a goal outside of our reach (a promotion, a specific amount of weight loss, etc.), then we set ourselves up to feel failure and disappointment.

With the pandemic already causing pressure around employment, and taking away many of our socializing outlets, we may not want to put more pressure on ourselves.

It is honestly difficult enough to implement lasting change through habit-forming. Making habit-forming fun for ourselves is challenging.

Setting numeric goals can be helpful. Being able to quantify what your goals are can definitely help you reach them. Just remember: No one is making you do this, and it is something you're doing to better yourself.

If you do not achieve the goal exactly the way you dreamed, you still probably did a lot of good work. There's no need to disparage yourself for not losing a set amount of weight, as long as you know you're healthier. There's no need to beat yourself up for not writing the next bestselling novel...just writing a book is, in itself, an accomplishment.

Sometimes, for people with issues dealing with pressure and anxiety, the best resolution can be a mental health resolution, not a quantifiable, external one.

Knowing yourself and setting a resolution that helps instead of hurts

I have had issues dieting before. As in, I would starve myself to achieve a certain weight. I was always complimented when I was thinner, but I didn't feel good at all.

This year, instead of making a resolution that relies on weight, I decided my resolution would be to learn to surf.

I did this on purpose: Surfers need strong legs, a strong core, and strong arms. I do not have very strong arms, and my trainers have always tried to get me to work on my upper body. But if I'm going to surf, then I have to build up my arms.

If I made a goal to simply lose weight, I would engage in unhealthy activities to reach that goal, because I'm a very goal-oriented person.

However, if I made the goal a task instead, I will likely, by default, build up certain muscle groups. I might lose weight, I might not. Instead of using weight as a marker, I will use doing as my marker.

I know myself and I know how I am motivated. I also know how that motivation can be unhealthy. This year, I'm striving to learn something new. This activity relies on no one else—Nobody has to promote me or dictate to me whether or not I can do this activity, the way publishing a book relies on the approval of another group. I can work out alone as best as I can, while always working toward building the skills required to surf.

For me, this is a healthy way to set a goal.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we all can find a way to set a goal that is fun, motivational, and a positive for our mental health...in 2021 and beyond.

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