‘Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be and already are, but don’t know how to be.’
(H. L. Buckmaster)
The end of January often comes with a sense of failure as we reflect despondently on the dubious success of our first month of resolutions. A recent study has shown that around 80% of resolutions fail within 6 weeks. The initial burst of motivation to run every day and force down green smoothies has worn off, and all we are left with is a sense of our own shortcomings and disappointment at not having met our goals.
I would suggest that this is not so much due to a weakness or lack of effort on our part, but rather a result of the inherently problematic and unhelpful nature of New Year’s resolutions as traditionally understood. Caught up in the media hype of ‘A New Year, A New You’, there is a tendency to see New Year as a platform for total reinvention and thus make over-ambitious, unreasonable and unsustainable changes. We pick from the long list of overly-reductive traditional resolutions – lose weight, eat less, drink less, exercise more etc. – without pausing to think about what is really important to us. We set goals fundamentally out of alignment with our internal view of ourselves and with little reference to our core values, and then wonder why a few weeks in we are unhappy and struggling to meet these impersonal goals. The conclusion so often jumped to is that the problem must lie with us, rather than the resolution set.
In a social media world that abounds with health gurus and fitness bloggers encouraging us to set goals and never give up, it is easy to get caught up in an ideology that we must always strive to look better, be better and do better. There is much in this that is good, and I am not suggesting for a moment that one should never make changes or set goals. Rather, that we must be conscious to not let the relentless pursuit of goals that are by their very nature aspirational and focussed on what’s next, obscure our appreciation of what we have now.
I am of the belief that the New Year need not come with a pressure to fundamentally change ourselves in search of the ‘New You’ - I myself decided to set the small goal this year of smiling for a day; remarkably tiring yet infinitely more satisfying than guiltily nibbling celery sticks! Surely, greater happiness is to be found in self-acceptance and continual, incremental self-growth than in seeking a ‘new’ perfect version of ourselves. Although traditionally deemed anathema from the Head of an academically selective school, I wish to remind our girls that sometimes ‘good enough’ really is okay and encourage them to count the small, personal wins as well as the big, outwardly recognised ones. Let us remember that meaningful change is unlikely to happen overnight, but through a series of smaller shifts and moments, that cumulatively have the potential to make a big difference.
So, rather than feeling despondent at the end of this first month of the New Year, let us see it as an opportunity to recalibrate, reassess and revise - a chance to modify resolutions in search of something more congruent with the core us, and remind ourselves that change rarely happens in one big moment, but in those thousands of little moments.