Don’t cancel your 2021 new year’s resolutions

The value of setting goals

Many people may have unfulfilled 2020 new year’s resolutions, but that’s no reason to give up in 2021. (Photo by Geoffrey Howard)

Despite countless opinion pieces written about the difference between vulnerability and weakness, our society continues to link the two ideas together. Humans fear others will take advantage of our fragility or point ridicule at us. We take countless measures to hide embarrassing moments, childish hopes, nightmares and extravagant fantasies from even our closest friends. This is why new year’s resolutions become less and less popular as years go by. 

 The problem with resolutions 

New year’s resolutions come in many forms. You might decide to speak up in front of an intimidating professor, take a watercolour painting class, slowly start dating after a catastrophic experience or speak to a parent after years of anger. Vulnerability takes courage. It means admitting to yourself, and maybe other people, that you feel regret over past failures.  

What I believe is the worst decision when it comes to resolutions, is people choosing an extraordinary goal and mistakenly believing it will be easy to accomplish, as if your year-old habits can be broken in days. Without a realistic plan, people throw themselves into the biting cold water of impossible challenges and expect to swim just fine. 

Changing oneself is treated like a two-step tutorial, a pill you swallow to immediately feel better. In a 2002 study, psychologists John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo and Matthew D. Blagys interviewed more than 100 people who made new year’s resolutions. They found 71 per cent of their research subjects were able to maintain their goals for one or two weeks. After six months, only 46 per cent were sticking to their resolutions. 

This is what new year’s resolutions often come down to: either people dismiss the idea of changing themselves all together; they quit their goals a few weeks in; or, in the rare case, they stick with their resolutions. In this imbalance of results, there is too much room for bitter cynicism. There are far too many skeptics who will find the sharpest sarcastic remark to accuse new year’s goals as silly or flat out unrealistic. Interestingly enough, according to research by Finder.com, generation Z made the most new year’s goals at the start of 2021, compared to all other generations. So young people want change, but are we willing to put the work in to create it? 

A new way to tackle resolutions 

Perhaps new year’s resolutions should be approached like grocery lists. We should go shopping for the essentials, but throw an extra item or two in the cart just for fun. You never know what value an overpriced pack of ricotta cheese will add to your life. Similarly, you never know who you will meet if you decide to walk outside once a day rather than staying indoors 24/7.  

To write such a grocery list, you must be certain everything in it is irreplaceable. All elements must be useful in the long run. Likewise, the list cannot be too long or too costly. It’s a journey centred around important needs.  

For example, some of my resolutions include reading Russian literature, consistently working on my emotional well-being and saving money for future travels. However, I also want to accept my mistakes and become more confident in my writing. 

On Thesaurus.com, some synonyms for the world vulnerable are susceptible, defenceless and helpless — all words with negative connotations. But what if we considered vulnerability as openness instead? There is certainly beauty in the vulnerability of confessing what you want to change to others and yourself.  

All the shields we create to hide our innermost desires are but rusty metal we are yearning to throw aside. If there’s anything we have learnt in the last few months, it’s that life is short and terrible things happen without warning. So, in 2021, write down your resolutions. Sure, you might fail. But there’s also a possibility of success. Vulnerability might open doors you never expected.  

 The problem with resolutions 

New year’s resolutions come in many forms. You might decide to speak up in front of an intimidating professor, take a watercolour painting class, slowly start dating after a catastrophic experience or speak to a parent after years of anger. Vulnerability takes courage. It means admitting to yourself, and maybe other people, that you feel regret over past failures.  

What I believe is the worst decision when it comes to resolutions, is people choosing an extraordinary goal and mistakenly believing it will be easy to accomplish, as if your year-old habits can be broken in days. Without a realistic plan, people throw themselves into the biting cold water of impossible challenges and expect to swim just fine. 

Changing oneself is treated like a two-step tutorial, a pill you swallow to immediately feel better. In a 2002 study, psychologists John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo and Matthew D. Blagys interviewed more than 100 people who made new year’s resolutions. They found 71 per cent of their research subjects were able to maintain their goals for one or two weeks. After six months, only 46 per cent were sticking to their resolutions. 

This is what new year’s resolutions often come down to: either people dismiss the idea of changing themselves all together; they quit their goals a few weeks in; or, in the rare case, they stick with their resolutions. In this imbalance of results, there is too much room for bitter cynicism. There are far too many skeptics who will find the sharpest sarcastic remark to accuse new year’s goals as silly or flat out unrealistic. Interestingly enough, according to research by Finder.com, generation Z made the most new year’s goals at the start of 2021, compared to all other generations. So young people want change, but are we willing to put the work in to create it? 

A new way to tackle resolutions 

Perhaps new year’s resolutions should be approached like grocery lists. We should go shopping for the essentials, but throw an extra item or two in the cart just for fun. You never know what value an overpriced pack of ricotta cheese will add to your life. Similarly, you never know who you will meet if you decide to walk outside once a day rather than staying indoors 24/7.  

“There are far too many skeptics who will find the sharpest sarcastic remark to accuse new year’s goals as silly or flat out unrealistic.” 

To write such a grocery list, you must be certain everything in it is irreplaceable. All elements must be useful in the long run. Likewise, the list cannot be too long or too costly. It’s a journey centred around important needs.  

For example, some of my resolutions include reading Russian literature, consistently working on my emotional well-being and saving money for future travels. However, I also want to accept my mistakes and become more confident in my writing. 

On Thesaurus.com, some synonyms for the world vulnerable are susceptible, defenceless and helpless — all words with negative connotations. But what if we considered vulnerability as openness instead? There is certainly beauty in the vulnerability of confessing what you want to change to others and yourself.  

All the shields we create to hide our innermost desires are but rusty metal we are yearning to throw aside. If there’s anything we have learnt in the last few months, it’s that life is short and terrible things happen without warning. So, in 2021, write down your resolutions. Sure, you might fail. But there’s also a possibility of success. Vulnerability might open doors you never expected.  

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Natalia Tola

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