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Are New Year’s resolutions worth it?

Disability blogger Sarah Alexander discusses how to create realistic goals for the New Year. 

First of all, Happy New Year, I hope whatever you did, you enjoyed it, even if it was just curled up in your pyjamas watching films like me.

It’s 2020! How did that happen? As I get older, I feel that the years fly by. I remember as a child, the holidays seemed to last a lifetime and I loved that. I guess time really does go quicker the older we get, and I guess that’s why we should appreciate every second.

Over the last few years I have championed the ‘appreciating the good times’ mantra. It was top of my resolutions list about five years ago and as someone in chronic pain, it has almost become my words to live by. But ‘appreciating the good times’ isn’t really a resolution, is it? It’s more a state of mind as it’s not a thing I can accomplish, it’s just something I do when I’m having a particularly good day.

Only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions, so are they worth it? Are they realistic? Do they put us under too much pressure or help us accomplish goals? Personally, I don’t set a lot of resolutions at the beginning of the year anymore; I give myself targets that I would like to hit and don’t put a timeframe on them. I found that setting resolutions would leave me anxious and stressed. I’d get myself really worked up and try to push myself to do things that my body physically couldn’t handle. I was injuring myself physically and mentally, and it was leaving me really struggling.

“ We need to spend more time loving ourselves as we are.”

I think my main issue with New Year’s resolutions is the ‘new year, new me,’ narrative is that it’s implying that there is something wrong with the ‘old me’. How absolutely unrealistic is it to become a different person on January 1st? We put too much pressure on ourselves to be something we’re not right away and when we don’t achieve it instantly, we give up. We need to spend more time loving ourselves as we are, we need to set this as a goal. We need to practice more self-care and be kinder to ourselves.

I do, however, think it’s healthy to set goals as they’re much more achievable and actionable whereas resolutions often tend to be vague and far too inexact. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, let’s try goal setting. With goals, it’s important to be sure on what you want to do, why you want to do it and how you can do it.

Vague resolutions are difficult to put into practice. ‘Get organised’, ‘learn a new skill’, ‘socialise more’, ‘read more’ are often in resolution lists and yet they aren’t specific enough. They need to be broken down into more manageable targets.

What skill do you want to learn? How often will you practice? What day will you practice?

What books do you want to read? How many will you read a month? Is it feasible?

The more specific you can be, the more chance you’ll have at succeeding.

The amount of times I had ‘write more’ at the top of my resolutions list was nonsensical. It was probably on my list for at least ten years, and every year I felt like I didn’t write enough. Why? Because I didn’t take it seriously, I didn’t schedule time to write, I procrastinated when I could have been putting words on a page, and in fact I probably wrote plenty, but I didn’t have a system to track how much I did.

“ I make a clear plan”

Instead of ambiguous objectives, I make a clear plan. I always want to write at least once a week so I schedule that day in my diary; I block out time so I know exactly when I will be typing away on my laptop, and I am strict with myself. The more I can make it into a routine, the better.

Of course, this doesn’t always go the way I’d hoped because my chronic illness likes to interrupt my plans, but if I am not able to work because of my health, I schedule it for another day, or I skip a week. I don’t put pressure on myself when I’m physically unable to create. If I am experiencing a particularly bad flare-up, I won’t write for a few weeks; I don’t have the concentration or ability, and I used to feel guilty and give myself a hard time over it but that isn’t healthy. Rest and recuperation are what I need, and my goal of writing comes second to that. As long as I get back to my routine when I can and stay consistent for as long as my body allows me, that’s what matters.

If you want to set goals, remember there’s no rush, you can start any time you want, don’t put so much pressure on January. Change doesn’t happen overnight or at the start of a new year. Only a very small percentage of people actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions, so don’t be too hard on yourself and do what is important to you. Set goals but listen to your body. Don’t push yourself more than you are able to. Don’t feel guilty if you miss a few targets and make a plan.

You’ve got this!

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