Try a Resolution-free New Year in 2021
Are you one of those people who set new goals, join a gym, start a diet, and promise to become a better version of yourself on January 1 of every new year?
Do you swear every year that this year will be different, that this time you will stick to your plan to become a better, stronger, skinnier, healthier, and wealthier version of yourself?
I used to go through the “New Year, New You” ritual, too. I would dutifully make my self-improvement list, and never question why I submitted to the practice. I would fall in line and earnestly approach the new-year ritual with an open heart, a determined mind, and a certainty that I could pull off my plans.
Every year the same promises, and ultimately, the same result.
But this year, you can count me out. I’m no longer feeling that vibe.
After the year of the collective anxiety we’ve suffered, I think what we really need in 2021 is a respite from self improvement.
We need to recover with time and space to unravel the knots.
Martha Postlethwaite’s poem, “Clearing,” is a perfect reminder of what we all need to do right now. She urges us to “create/a clearing/in the dense forest/of your life/and wait there, patiently/until the song/that is yours alone to sing/falls into your open cupped hands/and you recognize and greet it.”
I read those lines and whispered, “Yes.” The thought of skipping resolutions and instead, clearing out a wide, open space to wait patiently feels like a cool drink of water.
For me, clearing means relaxing and inviting potential and possibility in, rather than cluttering my energy and mind with forced intentions, resolutions, shoulds, and rules. Clearing means unfurling my heart like a frond of a fern and opening myself up to be free of the social rules and simply be me.
If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that the best laid plans can go awry in single breath. One day you are living your life and doing all the right things, and the next day you are stuck in your house for 9 months in your pajamas, existing on auto-pilot, and wondering when you can safely hang out with other people and be normal again.
This year we discovered that certainty is a fairytale. Underneath what appears to be a solid, reliable plan is roiling unpredictability.
My forced sabbatical from my life before Covid gave me hours of quiet contemplation time to rethink old habits that no longer serve me. And now, I can no longer remember why I burned up so much energy working so hard to make lists that were intended to make myself better than I was the year before. I can’t recall why I was compelled to judge and criticize myself into finding, fixing, and figuring myself out. Why did I care so much about who I was supposed to be?
My old resolutions were shackles I wore to keep my authentic self in check because I didn’t accept my reflection in the mirror. I was too eager to fix the woman with wrinkles, curves, thick thighs, and grey hair. I didn’t want to admit that I’m an imperfect woman who can hold a grudge indefinitely; who is messy and scattered; who picks dessert over brussel sprouts; who leaves clean laundry unfolded in the basket; who and goes to bed with a sink full of dirty dishes.
Yeah, I’m all of those things; I’m finally ready to own it.
I’m tired of holding up all a false pretense for everyone else. Those lists of resolutions I once wrote were like a corset tied up too tightly, squeezing and reshaping me to make me appear to be something I am not.
2021 is the year I rip off that constricting girdle for good. I want to take a deep breath, spread my arms wide, and just be me. To hell with resolutions. The space I take up in this world is mine to fully inhabit. I refuse to apologize for it.
Resolutions are supposed to help us become better than we were the previous year. But here’s the truth: Resolutions don’t work. Every year, millions of people write lists and set intentions that fade to memory in a couple months. In fact, according to U.S. News, 80 percent of resolutions fail by February. Nothing ever really changes. Most people inevitably end up back at square one on day one of the next New Year.
So why bother when none of it makes any difference? According to Psychology Today, “Most of our resolutions aren’t things we actually want to do deep down in our hearts but things we feel we ought to do.”
What would happen if this year you decided to toss out the old rules? What if you release those unrealistic expectations and finally decide to be comfortable in your skin, just as you are, right now? No more New Year’s promises. No more feeling you never measure up. No more regrets about unresolved promises to yourself.
This year, be bold; refuse to fall in line. Create something new and “give yourself to the world so worthy of rescue.”
Clearing by Martha Postlethwaite
Do not try to serve
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there patiently,
until the song
that is yours alone to sing
falls into your open cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself to the world
so worthy of rescue.