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What is a New Year’s Resolution anyway?

What is a New Year’s Resolution anyway? Why is it put upon us at this time of year to make a public pronouncement to accomplish some task, name a goal, or otherwise aspire for some nebulous aspect of character that we may never have been intended to achieve? Aren’t we good enough as we are? Is a new year really a chance to reinvent ourselves, doff our old skins and stride forward into a glimmering future of renewed self-respect? How is this singular transition from night to day any different from any other earthly revolution? Why must we keep up this ridiculous facade?

What is a New Year’s Resolution anyway

Some people don’t even try. They tell everyone that resolutions are stupid, and that if something were important enough, then a person would just do it: add it to a task list and then hold yourself accountable. These types of people can fall into two extreme categories. One group basically never gets anything done because they don’t want to break a promise to themselves. They procrastinate or otherwise do their best to elude their dissatisfaction and pass the buck. They essentially resolve to stay the same, and oftentimes end up convincing themselves that they are better off for doing so.

The other extreme are those rare birds who, by some immense measure of willpower and determination, somehow manage to stay on track with the majority of their goals. They’re the go-getters who see not only their goals but all the potential obstacles that may inhibit them from succeeding and somehow manifest a roadmap to their destination. How these mystical generators acquire this mindset is unclear. However, like any aspect of human cognition and actualization, it is a muscle that once-developed merely needs to be exercised. For those of us who lean more toward the less proactive extreme, this may be a comforting notion.

What types of resolutions are there? The most accessible and widely ascribed usually have to do with our physical well-being. We decide that this is the year that we finally quit smoking or drinking–this resolution is usually made with a cocktail in one hand and a ciggy dangling from the other. We’re going to eat less fast-food, drink less soda or coffee, and exercise more. We make this pronouncement to a circle of our closest friends with a wide smile and little to no actual intention to follow through with it. And they all know it as well as we do.

Another type of resolution has to do with one’s inner well-being. We decide to finally start therapy, to reach out to an estranged family member, to finally get on with that job search for a position at a company that both appreciates you for your talents as well as compensates you fairly. They can even be karma-centric like declaring to volunteer more. Surprisingly, these tend to be easier to accomplish. At the very least you get the serotonin flush from downloading the app.

Regardless, New Year’s Resolutions function as a type of crystal ball. We use them to peer into a possible future where some level of dissatisfaction with our present has been resolved. They’re hopeful. The simple act of making a resolution is an act of humility. It’s acknowledging that we’re not perfect, and that there are some concrete achievable acts that can bring us closer to our ideal selves. They are a step onto a path–and even if you don’t follow it to the end, sometimes it’s comforting just to know the path exists for when you’re finally ready for a longer journey.

And it’s not too late for you to firm your resolve and find your New Year’s Resolution. New Year’s Eve may be a fading memory; the confetti swept up and away to explode another day, the champagne bottles rolled off to be recycled into vessels for greater spirits. But the actual new year remains ahead of us glimmering in golden morning sunshine, a promise of opportunity to realize something greater in ourselves… should we find the resolve.

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