By Maddy Simpkins
We’ve finally made it through the first month of a new year. I find there to be nothing worse than starting out the New Year with no goals, too many goals, or no way of achieving them. Most often, people make annual commitments to improving their own health and fitness, setting budgets and saving money, goals for family and intimate relationships, accelerating career and business ventures or last but not least, the goal to travel more (Statistic Brain). Sometimes ‘overwhelming’ is the best term to describe the prospect of a new year, with all types of opportunities and possibilities laid out before us like a steep mountainous incline. Perched high on the peaks of that mountain are our dreams, goals, and wishes for a successful year. Each conscious step and each passing day brings us closer to the summit or contrastingly, regrettably lost, misled, or fallen‐ behind. For some of us, this business of resolution‐making is uncharted territory. Regardless, completing these rigid commitments for the New Year can feel like quite the undertaking.
In fact, when we relate this analogy to results from University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, 49% of resolution‐makers experience infrequent success at achieving self‐ made goals. Additional data from the study reveals 71% of resolution‐ makers actively work towards their New Years’ goals for the first two weeks. Later found in the study, for many this hopeful change is soon cast away, as the period following brings a state of idleness and stagnation where little‐to‐no goal completing progress is made. (Hello, laziness!) Is it then possible that we set ourselves up for failure without any consideration? This subliminal and counteractive ambivalence is perhaps a psychological commonality amongst us. In only a matter of weeks or months, as many of us can find from our own experiences, it’s as if our source of dedication ceases to exist. If there is one shared characteristic throughout each person’s treacherous climb to self‐improvement, it is our downfall and our constant source of agony. Its name is Self-Doubt.
This phenomenon is not uncommon amongst us fellow earthlings. It wages a war inside us all, wishes to send us plummeting to the canyon when we’re just moments from reaching our destination. For years, I always thought it had something to do with the ‘winter blues’. But I eventually realized, that the loss of my determination was not due to the weather, but due to something ingrained into my being. That voice at the back of your skull which dissuades your drive and dampens your spirits; that Self Doubt saboteur, is omnipresent but ever more daunting when it knows there’s something larger at stake ‐ your New Years’ resolutions!
“I can’t meet my goal weight because [insert excuse here]” or “It’s pointless for me to keep trying this new method when the old one works just fine” or “OK I give in.” The past few weeks of January, you may have heard variations of these phrases tossed between fitness centre to work station to social gathering. Self-Doubt’s powers are adverse and detrimental to our vitality and self‐ confidence. It is common for Self Doubt to talk down to us, to tell us that we are not enough. But we are more than enough.
What, then, can be our solution? The plan for reconstructing our faded‐out objectives and abandoned ambitions and banishing that beast for good?
I recently read a thought‐provoking quote from writer Joanna Macy that helped me to understand how stressing over the end result of goal‐ setting ultimately teaches us nothing:
“We must learn the hardest and most rewarding of lessons: how to make friends with uncertainty; how to pour your whole passion into a project when you can’t be sure it’s going to work. How to free yourself from dependence on seeing the results of your actions. These learnings are crucial, for living systems are ever unfolding in new patterns and connections. There is no point from which to foresee with clarity the possibilities to emerge under future conditions.”
What I took from this is a concept I’d like to share with you. We don’t need to strive or expel effort for empty resolutions that only last a couple of weeks (at best). Life‐learning doesn’t require start dates or ultimatums, motivational coaches or dealing with commitment issues. We must resolve for different things, realistic things, attainable things. Everyday things. Resolve to make an effort to get to know your neighbour. Resolve to be more available when your friends or colleagues need an extra hand. Resolve to strengthen and deepen current relationships. Resolve to become familiar with the history of the spaces you occupy. Take initiative to make worthwhile interactions with strangers. Take a moment out of each day to reflect upon the things in life you are grateful for. Practise mindfulness. Of course these are simply suggestions, but the point being ‐ let yourself go from the ball‐ and‐chain of conventional result‐ based, time‐structured resolutions and spread your ambitions far into the universe.
With these new, meaningful resolutions you can make a clear, loud message to your own worst enemy. Self-Doubt will have no choice but to tremble with defeat, and at last you can be free to hope, dream and achieve whatever your heart desires. The best way to show yourself promise is to trust in yourself. Ready, set, goal!