The promise of a new year is undeniable—it's a readymade culturally enforced deadline to reconsider your goals and "start fresh." But while we always welcome the opportunity to check in with ourselves, there's something decidedly problematic with a "new year, new you" mentality. When we create lofty resolutions with the intent to "transform" ourselves, we often do so at the expense of our personal journey, with little deference to how far we've come already. And because it's January 1—the time to make changes—there's a heightened pressure to do so.
But statistics show us time and again that this mindset does not work. According to one survey, by the end of the first week of January, more than 25% of people will ditch their resolutions. By the end of the month, that percentage rises to nearly 50. The problem becomes obvious when you look at some of the most popular resolutions: Lose weight, self-improvement, work out more often. These goals are vague and impersonal, and frankly, they're they're all "what," without any acknowledgment of "how." Because once we shift the focus from the journey itself to some intangible goal line, it becomes that much more difficult to follow through.
I'll offer up myself as proof. Last year, for the first time in years, I vowed to ditch New Year's resolutions altogether. In the wake of personal and political circumstances that collectively broke my heart, the prospect of making arbitrary demands of myself felt both irrelevant and overwhelming in the face of such chaos. I felt a new urge to treat myself with quiet and loving care so that I might be able to better face the tumultuous world around me without succumbing to the sadness of it all and, better yet, make my voice heard. I knew I could not do this effectively if I was distracted by my own insecurities and self-imposed demands.
So instead of making resolutions, I simply signed up for a membership at my local yoga studio and told myself that I would go however often I truly felt like it. This was part of an overall paradigm shift in which I began to silence all the things I thought I should be doing and instead really thought about what I actually wanted to be doing, acknowledging all the while that this would change on a day-to-day—or even hour-by-hour—basis.
Once I lifted this pressure, my current wellness routine didn't just materialize—it felt more nourishing to my mind and body than anything I had done before. I realized I wanted to go to yoga; I wanted to seek out self-care rituals as refuge. And when I woke up and couldn't be bothered to work out that day, I respected myself enough to know that it was fine—a far cry from the self-beratement of my past. I don't think it's a coincidence that in the months since making this decision, I have never felt healthier or more self-assured. And knowing that I am solely responsible for this is an incredibly empowering feeling.
I share this story as an invitation to set aside any grievances you may have with yourself this year and instead look at January 1 as an opportunity to continue rather than reboot. Instead of resolving to change, set small, daily intentions to take care of yourself, no matter what that might look like to you: Some days it might involve hitting a new workout class or writing in a gratitude journal; others might call for a much-needed Netflix binge. Either way, the point is to treat yourself with respect and without judgment. Really, it's an extended exercise in mindfulness.
And above all else, it's a chance to get to know yourself better, to experiment in the art of self-love and self-care. It's not a goal but a process. Trust that this alone will make all the difference.