A woman's hair blowing as confetti falls

On the first day of every year, we wake up with a new to-do list of goals we want to accomplish in the next 12 months.

Eat healthier.
Go to the gym more.
Finally read the books that have been sitting on the bookshelf.
Make the recipes we saved on Instagram and swore we’d try someday.
Start the passion project we’ve always wanted to complete but “never had the time” for.

No matter what it is, we’re always promising ourselves that this year will be different than the last, that this year we’ll actually accomplish the things we set our minds to do in January.

Promising ourselves those things only leads to the inevitable disappointment when life just doesn’t go our way. Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls when we least expect them. We get caught up in the day-to-day, forget to go to the gym for a week (or two) and opt for takeout or delivery instead of cooking at home. Our brains are too exhausted from our jobs or everyday tasks that we just can’t take on anything else.

This can cause us to beat ourselves up. Not doing the things we promised we’d do back in January makes us feel lazy or like failures. When we make a list and don’t complete it, we focus on what we didn’t accomplish, rather than what we did.

When we make a list and don’t complete it, we focus on what we didn’t accomplish, rather than what we did.

New Year’s resolutions often set us up for disappointment because they don’t take into account the craziness, busyness and chaos of life. A to-do list can’t predict what will happen a day, a week or six months from now. 

While having goals for the year is great, why do we always wait for the first day of a new year to begin something we’ve always wanted to do? What’s stopping us from just beginning now?

For me, a new year has the same effect as a Monday. I always say Monday is the beginning of a new week—a fresh start—but when I don’t feel as productive that week or I don’t accomplish the things I thought I would, I start to feel like a failure. A new year is essentially the same.

The truth of the matter is that the beginning of a new point of time—whether that’s a new week, a new month or a new year—doesn’t necessarily have to be indicative of when you start the journey toward achieving your goals. In reality, they’re just like any other day.

Instead of waiting for the first day of a new year, start your goals when you decide on them. That way, if you fall behind or you get caught up in life’s unpredictability, there isn’t an “end date” on New Year’s Eve, and you have an unconfined amount of time to accomplish what you’ve always wanted to.

That way. . .there isn’t an “end date” on New Year’s Eve, and you have an unconfined amount of time to accomplish what you’ve always wanted to.

Reshaping the way we think about goals and aspirations is key to not disappointing ourselves. My therapist once told me that instead of making a to-do list, I should make a list titled “what is going to relieve my anxiety today.” With that mindset, the things I set out to do every day, week or month are centered around what will help me and take life’s chaos into consideration.

When I began to think about what would make me feel good to achieve on a particular day—working out or skipping the gym, cooking or ordering delivery—I was more gentle with myself, my growth and the pace at which I was achieving my goals.

When there are no constraints on when or how you accomplish tasks or achieve personal growth, you feel more free. It relieves the pressure we often place on ourselves to be the most productive. It allows us to be gracious with ourselves and we are able to be fuller versions of ourselves.

What are your thoughts on New Year’s resolutions? Have you ever failed or succeeded at New Year’s resolutions? How did that make you feel?

Image via Chris and Sarah Rhoads of We Are the Rhoads, Darling Issue No. 7

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