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It's time to rethink the humble New Year's resolution

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Everyone is familiar with that post-Hogmanay bombardment of social media posts, all proclaiming "New year, new me!"

Gym memberships are bought, Duolingo is downloaded, and the fridge gets stocked with salad – all thanks to the thing we call a New Year's Resolution. It’s easy to see the supposed logic of this – it’s a new year, with new opportunities to change things in our lives that maybe we’re not totally satisfied with.

… but does it really make that much sense?

I was once a strong proponent of trying to change bad habits as each January rolled around, but now I’m beginning to wonder if it’s necessary.

My biggest issue with the trend lies in its name – New Year. Why does this have to be the time at which we choose to make these changes? I believe that if we’re really that resolved to try something new, why would we wait for a particular day in the calendar to get started? The answer: procrastination, that old wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you’re so convinced that you want to, say, write a book - start it when you first get the idea, when you’re full of motivation to do it. Don’t wait for the premier of the new year, by when your willpower and determination is likely to have abated to some degree.

A further danger of transforming your new goal into a New Year’s Resolution is that dreaded January slump. Experts have acknowledged that the first month of the year is probably the worst for productivity and action, all thanks to a phenomenon known as the January blues. The festive season and all the fun it brings is over, and you begin to remember just how boring the other 11 months of the year are in comparison. So what does this mean for our New Year’s Resolutions?

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

You’re simply less likely to keep them up.

Who wants to brave the cold to go for a run when all you feel like doing is vegging out in front of the telly with the remnants of last month’s Quality Street box? If, like me, you recognise your own lack of motivation at the beginning of the year, it's really all the more reason to turn your resolution into a habit well before the post-crimbo blues hit you. That way, there is more chance you’ll still be doing your thing when February finally arrives.

This is not to say at all that I don’t agree with goal-setting, however, you just need to think about the best time to get started. There’s nothing magical about January 1st. If it’s a dream that maybe takes some motivation to get started, you’re best hopping on that straight away before procrastination kicks in, and before you know it that idea is just a distant, months-ago memory. Some might need some planning, and some time to think about how exactly to achieve it. For example – if you want to travel more. Not many of us can afford to head straight to the airport. You need to choose destinations, research the area, and book that time off work. It’s ok to wait a bit of time for things like that.

And I can admit it – some resolutions do work best at New Year. I want to read 52 books a year, one a week. I’ve realised I don’t read for pleasure nearly as much as I used to, and I want to get back in the habit. The best time, for me, to get started is January because I have a whole month off before the next semester, with no coursework to do – so no excuses can be made not to read.

It’s true that New Year’s Resolutions can change your life. Three years ago, I aspired to maximise my academic potential, and not settle for alright grades – I wanted the marks I was capable of. Today, I’m a medical student. 

I guess that really what I want to say is, just put some thought into it. When is best to start? Also, is that goal really reasonable? Learning one language in a year to a decent standard, sure – but more than that? It’s important to reach for the stars, but we need to keep our feet on the ground at the same time.

Completing a New Years Resolution feels fantastic, but spotting it written in your planner the next December and realising you never got there can seriously make you feel like crap. You’ve definitely not wasted a year, but it can feel like it. So aim high, push yourself to try something new – but don’t set yourself up to fail from the start.

Make this your year.

Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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