To Resolve or Not To Resolve

It’s January 4th, and the time of year when the internet and social media begins to blow up with people writing about how they have already abandoned their New Year’s Resolutions.  Pictures on Instragram and Tumbler of people eating cake and pie with reckless abandon, and comments about guilt and failure permeating everything.  How depressing.

And I thought things were going to be different this year.

And then I stumbled upon this wonderful image courtesy of my brilliant friend Valerie, and found it to be a very appropriate writing prompt.


Obviously the idea of setting goals and resolutions is not an inherently bad thing to do… I would like to make a list of places I would like to visit this year, or tasks I would like to accomplish, things I would like to learn.  The act of self-reflection is important, and helps us move forward both as individuals, and as a collective society.  Our history does inform our future actions, and we should take the time to acknowledge this process.  However, this is not something that should be limited to the first few days of the year,  nor is New Year’s an appropriate time to engage in a flogging of one’s self.

What gets me is the fact that people are so quick to throw themselves under the bus in the writing of ‘resolutions’ by either focusing entirely on their shortcomings – “Shame on me for not looking fantastic in my bathing suit”, or by setting goals that are entirely ridiculous –  “This year I am going to lose 50 pounds, learn to speak Farsi, and spend two hours each evening engaging in activities related to me time.” 

No you’re not.

Nor should you feel bad about not being able to accomplish goals like these.

I believe that individual growth and success comes from focusing and building from a place of strength rather than weakness.  And while not all of our dreams have to be realistic, they do need to be connected not only to our passions, but to an appreciation of our positive qualities and the strength that we already have when moving into those scary places of fear, or weakness.

And we can do that any (every) day, or even just once in a while.

Our resolutions cannot just be based in a willingness or desire ‘to be better’ or more beautiful in the eyes of others.  Lasting happiness will come when we realize that we can sit with ourselves, even the ugly, gritty parts, and be content.

Let’s take things one step further and recognize that improving the quality of our individual lives is most likely to occur when we connect with the well-being of our communities.  Introspection is healthy, but only to a certain extent… its a slippery slope to narcissism.

I’ve got no stats to back myself up, but it seems to me that the madness surrounding New Year’s Resolutions is inherently connected to a level of wealth and privilege that allows us to be able to justify the idea that our main goal for an entire 365 year period should be about going to the gym every day.   If I am unable to meet my basic needs such as shelter, food, and security, then I am certainly not thinking about getting a Yoga Pass.  So perhaps we can frame our resolutions with a broader perspective, one that acknowledges the roles that our communities have in improving the quality of life for all its members, and also as providers of strength and support in meeting our own personal goals.  Connecting our resolutions to the elements of strong community might break these vicious cycle.

So this New Year, let’s resolve not to wallow in guilt over the fact that we all like brownies and desperately want them in our lives.  Instead, let’s think about the ways that we can use our strengths and gifts in the process of self-improvement, and in the creation of just and caring communities in 2014.

** Image courtesy of the lovely Valerie at Briarpatch Magazine