Carmen Paddock discusses the yearly tradition of making new years resolutions and tells us why she won’t be making one for 2015…
January seems defined by an effort to do good. To work harder. To eat vegetables instead of crisps. To go to the gym. To study harder. To keep in touch with friends. To read more. To learn a new language. To take up a new sport or hobby. In short – to become a new person.
Every January the media, from national publications to personal Twitter feeds, are inundated with this flood of good intentions. #NewYearNewMe. Every January the vegetable aisle at Sainsbury’s is constantly depleted and smoothie bars see a spike in business. Every January it becomes near impossible to find a free treadmill at the gym and the number of joggers on the road doubles. Every January the self-help and self-instruction books fly off the shelves. #NewYearNewMe.
Then every February the crisps and chocolate are back in demand, the gym is once again empty, and the self improvement is eschewed in favour of TV marathons.
This annual phenomenon never fails to bring out the grumpiest cynic in me. This fad of personal goals, of fresh starts and self-improvement, comes across as commodified, commercialised, and abused. Does it really matter how many vegetables you eat in a day? Is it really necessary to post the picture of your green smoothie on Instagram #freshstart2k15? Or worse, to tweet about your horrible chocolate cravings #healthyhabits? It becomes a popularity contest, a plea for attention and approval for your new found virtue. And, in January, these posts not only become the norm, but expected as well. You feel you need to do something to keep up with your friends’ bicep-bursting endeavours or hesitantly-strummed guitar chords. And every year you wish you didn’t have to give a damn.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not disparaging self-improvement. Working to better yourself is an incredibly important, transformative, exciting journey, one that is important for self-esteem and personal empowerment. I would not want to discourage anyone from setting new goals and working towards things that have meaning for them. But what does it have to do with New Year’s? Why is a date on a calendar – an arbitrary date no different from any other day of the year – the revered moment for making a change? In effect, why change if you’re not inspired to? And why wait if you’re moved to change days, weeks, or months early?
If you don’t want to change anything – if you’re happy with your fitness routine or study habits – why feel pressured to take on some goal you’re not interested in? Don’t make any resolutions and stick with the happiness you have. On the other hand, when you’re inspired to take up a new pursuit or break an old habit, go for it heart and soul. Taking charge of your life is an immensely freeing experience. Taking responsibility to make yourself healthier, stronger, and more productive brings an exhilarating rush of energy, the feeling of which often inspires further positive action. But when this inspiration strikes, it seems better to seize the momentum then and there instead of waiting for a milestone on which to take action.
The resolutions so often set at New Year’s are on the whole incredibly beneficial. However, the cult of resolutions, #NewYearNewMe splattered over Twitter and Instagram, and ‘Top Tips to Stick to Your Goals’ articles plastering the internet cheapen this noble pursuit. Let self-improvement be the personal, independent, self-driven pursuit that is innately is – let’s take away the competition and commodification, and perhaps the cynicism with it.
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