Why I Still Make New Year's Resolutions Even Though It Feels Arbitrary
January 1st does not have a monopoly on self-improvement.
My journal is full of disparate notes – conversations I overheard on the subway, things my partner said that were too sweet not to write down, shopping lists, grocery lists, goals, aspirations, quotes from books and movies, and, once a year, New Year’s resolutions. For me, writing down observations gives them permanence – a plug to hold fast to the memories that fail us and wash away. I write down goals for a similar reason – it makes them stick.
My commitment to writing things down really solidified when I was a college student in Austin, Texas, and many of my professors gave us a related mandate: stop taking notes on your computer, and, instead, start writing them down in a notebook. Going through the physical motion of jotting down lecture notes makes it easier for your mind to grasp them; it’s much harder for our brains to encode something when we’re just typing keys. Also, it’s proven that this makes us better students: according to a study referenced in Forbes, “when people were taking notes, they remembered many more important facts and many fewer unimportant facts” – thus, “writing things down doesn’t just help you remember, it makes your mind more efficient by helping you focus on the truly important stuff.”
When we create a New Year’s resolution, we’re resolving to evolve, change, grow, or accomplish. This certainly feels like “the truly important stuff” that Forbes is arguing we should do a better job of focusing on. It’s about intention; identifying a north star for the new year to which we can direct our efforts. And writing down something that I resolve to pursue, like a healthier diet or a new skill, means that I am reminded of that commitment to self-betterment on a regular basis, and inevitably more likely to achieve it.
Here’s the thing, though: resolving to pursue better versions of ourselves doesn’t have to be an exercise exclusively done in celebration of the New Year, and January 1st does not have a monopoly on self-improvement. Life is comprised of many, many small moments, and each one presents an opportunity for change. The context of the New Year is a good, though arbitrary, one, and gives us the framework of a clean-cut “fresh start,” but it’s not necessary to wait until the last hour of 2019 arrives to reassess your ambitions, or write new ones. Restricting ourselves to only one opportunity a year to commit to resolutions is unnecessarily limiting. Consider each day as brimming with opportunity for transformation, then resolve to pursue it, regardless of calendar month.
You may also like...
Keep Calm and Activate the Vagus Nerve
Easy and actionable practices for slowing down your system with psychologist Hiroko Demichelis Positive psychologist, Hiroko Demichelis believes that as a society, we have mastered the art of the h...
People & Places
Dr. Sarah Hill: Could Your Birth Control Pill Be Affecting Your Ability to Do Good Work?
When the first oral contraceptive pill was approved by the FDA in 1960, it changed the world. The pill enabled women to have control over how and when they got pregnant, and thus to discover what ...
Better Your Werk
In The Era Of The Side Hustle, Is The Hobby Dead?
Why we should resist the pressure to constantly optimize for profit.
Do Good Werk
9 Passive-Aggressive Email Phrases That Are Basically Evil
A Rosetta Stone for every time you want to :’).
Human beings are wired for connection, but we have to do the work to get there.
Are They Toxic? Or Are They Human?
There’s a difference between putting up boundaries and putting up walls, and the latter is what breaks relationships.
Environmental Intersectionality: Why This Conversation Matters
It starts with trusting communities who know they can harness our planet’s gifts without harming it.
The Ups and Downs of Hormonal Birth Control
The pill has been prescribed for decades, but at what cost?
Better Your Werk
What Learning Through Zoom Can Teach Us
How to pivot from digital panic to digital possibility.
People & Places
Creating Value Through Community in the Face of COVID-19
Fearing for the safety of the Diné community in the face of COVID-19, a collective of women took the wellbeing of their people into their hands.