Why New Year’s Reminders Work Better Than Resolutions
by Maria Del Russo
In life in general, I am constantly setting myself up to fail, it seems. I’ll make a grand declaration of something I want to do, like start a podcast or go to yoga three days a week, stick to it for a few days, and then promptly forget about it. No matter how many times I try to train myself to keep these good intentions front-of-mind, they always tend to slip away, and I’m left with a half-started knit blanket and a shelf stocked with self-help books I will never read.
It’s for this very reason that I abhor New Year’s resolutions. The concept is like one big ‘ol bear trap I can’t help but walk right into, even though I can spot it for a mile away. I know I won’t stick to the Konmari method of folding clothes. And yet, every time January 1 rolls around, I find myself making a new set of lofty goals to accomplish.
And it’s not like I don’t want to maintain these good habits. Truly, I do want to remember to drink more water, to floss every night, and to stop texting men who want nothing to do with me. But resolutions, to me, seem practically designed to fail. Think about it: If you resolve to do something, like stick to a meditation practice, and then you miss a day, you’ve automatically failed that resolution and, in turn, disappointed yourself. There’s not much wiggle room. I’m convinced that’s why you see so many people ditch their resolutions halfway through January. You miss one day of the goal, and then you figure “eh, what the hell.” Suddenly, instead of cooking at home every day, you’re back on your Seamless bullshit. And you feel bad about it, because you “failed” your resolutions.
So two years ago, I formulated another path. It started out with the idea to actually write my resolutions down and put them somewhere I’d be able to see them. In my old apartment, that was right by my mirror in my bathroom. If they were there, I figured, I’d be able to see them regularly and stick to them more easily.
That didn’t really work — I fell into the same pattern where I missed a day of yoga or forgot to drink enough water. But since the list stayed taped to my mirror, the resolutions didn’t seem to be ruined. In fact, the list took on less of a “rule” feeling and more of a “reminder” feeling.
That, it seemed, was where the shift took place. Since “drink more water” was now a reminder, and not a rule, I couldn’t fail at it. If I messed up and skipped yoga on Wednesday, I could always go the next day. While resolutions are inflexible, reminders reset every day. And when I gave myself that little bit of wiggle room, I found myself sticking to the goals I’d set out for myself for months. In fact, I’ve maintained a regular yoga habit this entire year. By loosening this “all or nothing” mentality, I was able to actually accomplish something.
So now, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I make myself New Year’s reminders. They’re less goal-oriented, and more about little ways that I can sustainably improve my days. For 2019, I want to remember to take care of my body, because I feel better when I do. I want to remember to walk more instead of relying on cabs and public transportation. I want to remember to drink more water and to tell the people around me that I love them more. There are going to be days when I absolutely don’t hit these check boxes, sure. But that’s ok, because I can always try again the next day. And little by little, these reminders will turn into habits. And, truly, isn’t that the goal of a resolution anyway?
Stumped on how to proceed? Here are a few resolutions-turned-reminders you could take up after the clock strikes midnight.
“Get in shape” becomes “break a sweat three days a week”
I used to be one of those people who joined a gym in January, tried to go every day, and by February saw my sneakers collecting dust in my closet. So instead, I have made breaking a sweat the goal instead of getting in shape — because one hand washes the other. Breaking a sweat can be anything from taking a brisk walk to taking a hot yoga class. And if you miss a day? No worries. Tomorrow is a fresh start.
“Eat healthily” becomes “eat more veggies”
I love carbohydrates and soft cheese more than anyone, and trying to drop less healthy foods entirely in favor of a purely healthy diet is a recipe for disaster. So instead, I just try to incorporate more veggies in general. I add vegetables to my pasta or get a veggie pizza instead of just cheese. And if I overindulge one day? I know that I can be vegetable-forward tomorrow or the next day.
“Get organized” becomes “figure out a system that works for you”
In past Januaries, I’d research numerous ways to get myself organized. Once I failed, I’d go back to living in filth. But the way to tackle this task is to, instead, see it as an evolving process. Organization is not a one time deal. It’s something you figure out as you go. So if you try to get organized, and a few days later things fall apart, try to figure out why they did, and try to correct your course by making minor tweaks instead of becoming a professional organizer overnight.
“Drink less” becomes “learn to appreciate alcohol”
Dry January can sometimes give way to an overindulgent rest of the year. I’ve found that what works better for me is to focus less on the idea of drinking less and more on the idea of drinking alcohol that tastes good. I wind up drinking less because I’m spending more money on a good glass of wine or cocktail. And when I know that I’m allowed to enjoy my booze, I find that one glass of wine is more than sufficient. So figure out what alcohol you enjoy, and then make it a little ritual. You’ll find yourself drinking less and enjoying it more.
“Spend less money” becomes “save a little when you can”
Going on a shoestring budget is never a resolution I’m able to keep. So I don’t spend less money — I just make sure to pay myself first. Some days I save nothing. Other days I’ll sock $5 away. And other days still, I’m able to put away even more. You’re achieving the same goal as spending less without limiting yourself. Instead, you’re just making sure you have some cash saved away before you go and spend. Win-win.