Photo by Kleigh Balugo
This year, I bought a yoga mat. The purchase was spurred by the panic-induced determination to be a “better person” that propelled many of us through 2020 as we drowned our pandemic listlessness in baking sourdough and consuming TV shows at obscene rates. After my purchase, I proudly chipped away at my goal to work out every day and disprove my internal excuses that school and other obligations leave me with no time for exercise. I exercised every day for about a month, but the mat now collects dust on a shelf in my dorm and my Google Calendar reminder to work out is but an artifact of what can only be called more productive times.
The yoga mat is just one piece of evidence of my submission to a familiar yet irrational tendency to believe that we can change our lives instantaneously. Buying a new yoga mat and workout clothes only granted me so much momentum- by the end of the month, the superficial appeals of a consistent exercise regimen faded and I was left with lots of hard work to do and not enough motivation.
Much like shelved quarantine endeavors, New Year’s resolutions often grant quickly fading surges of motivation that we never seem to follow through on. Every year, we set resolutions in pursuit of a better version of ourselves (Eat healthier! Study more! Spend less money!). It’s much easier to eagerly conceive of high ambitions than doing what actually needs to be done to actualize them, a notion made evident by the pandemic-ridden year. We often end up disappointing ourselves when the monotony of the new year sets in and we realize we’re still the same person we were last year and our goals reveal themselves to have been a bit too far-fetched. However, 2020 has made the stakes astronomically lower than usual; I see this as the perfect time to scrap the futile tradition of the New Year’s resolution.
Though we finally get to shed away the past year with the arrival of 2021, the unfulfilled goals and missteps of 2020 shouldn’t be forgotten. I don’t believe in wallowing in regret over things long past, but I do think we give the symbolic “clean slate” of a new year too much significance, allowing it to let us get carried away when setting resolutions. At the risk of sounding like a poster in your high school counselor’s office, I say this wholeheartedly: every day presents a chance to begin working towards our goals- a new year is simply a new set of days. Though it might feel like it, a new year possesses no mystical quality to boost our self-improvement capabilities. There’s always room to get better, regardless of the time of year.
When 2020 consisted of days that melted into weeks that melted into months that were all some hellish version of March, the last thing any of us need is a comprehensive highlight reel of our Annual Personal Failures. Regardless, I can’t help but think about how I wish I read more and made more time for myself, or I spent less time ruminating on things long concluded and spent less on unnecessary things. I could continue for days, but my unfulfilled goals haven’t simply dissipated with the arrival of the new year- and they won’t become easier to attain either. The steady flow of new books to be arranged by color on my bookshelf owed to my ongoing attempt to reignite my dormant love for reading will mean nothing if I don’t actually read a single book this year.
I’m no life expert; until I’ve effectively practiced what I preach, feel free to take my words lightly. However, from my own experience and those of many others, we’re too willing to invest loads of time, money, and effort into a goal in its initial stages (the honeymoon stage, if you will), only to jump ship when it proves to be an uphill struggle. We’re especially guilty of this during the new year as we give goals the hefty title of “resolutions” that lose their luster by February, leaving us wondering if we’re really capable of achieving anything good for ourselves.
This year, we should abandon the tradition of creating resolutions in the temporary euphoria of a new year. Instead of aiming for transformation on a spontaneous whim, 2021 and each year beyond should be the year of checkpoints and progress, no matter how small, at our own pace.