New year, new me: finding resolute resolutions

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

When I was 16, my grandmother turned to me and demanded I tell her my resolutions for the new year. 

When I said that I did not have any, she told me I was far too old not to have at least one and that I needed to think about it and get back to her. 

I tried to find a reason to neglect this assignment that my grandmother had brought before me, but with ample time over winter break to ponder the fickleness of life, I decided that I had no excuses and agreed to return to her with a list of resolutions. That, and I deeply feared Grammy’s wrath. 

The word “resolution” has several meanings, but when it comes to New Year’s resolutions the world tends to subscribe to the idea that it is a promise to do better. This, of course, forces one to reflect on their shortcomings, failures and general morality, which is uncomfortable to put it mildly. 

However, rather than digging deep into one’s soul and resolving the troubles that plague their relationships and fuel their insomnia, the typical person looks at themself in the mirror and decides, “I am going to eat more salad.”

This is not to say that a good resolution is one that demands extensive soul-searching and contemplation, nor that eating more salad is bad. However, I do think that people, myself included, tend to use the wrong
definition of “resolution.” 

The “do better” definition makes it easy to fall into the trap of promising to be the person the world or the communities we live in want us to be. To be thinner, run faster, maximize your productivity or make more money. 

Although these goals may have value to some, they are certainly not “one-size-fits-all.” 

Going to the gym for six days a week may be beneficial to some people, but for many people this goal is not possible or it may be unfulfilling. 

Expanding the definition of resolution can account for goals that do not serve oneself. 

Namely, “resolution” can be defined as problem-solving or as the quality of being determined or purposeful just as well as it can mean a promise to change. 

These considerations pave the way for more thoughtfulness and individuality in our quest for self-improvement in the new year. 

It is generally accepted that a resolution starts with reflection and identifying a problem. 

The word “problem” tends to have a negative connotation; however, a problem does not have to affect one’s daily life to be worth being addressed. Identifying areas to grow in, whether it be learning a skill or trying something new, is a problem that can be solved. 

The problem can be as heavy or as simple as one desires; the choice to repair a damaged relationship compared to the choice to clean out that pesky coat closet are wildly different and yet, they are both valuable,
important problems. 

Once a problem is identified, an important question to ask is “why do I want to change that?” If there is no answer or the answer involves contorting oneself into a socially constructed box, then it may be worth reconsidering. 

For example, let’s assume that someone wants to attend more group fitness classes. 

If they are attending these classes for the purpose of making friends or improving their mental health, then that goal will be a much more enriching experience than if their only goal is to get into shape. 

Finding ways to expand activities to address more than one problem only adds value. Then, the only challenge left is to execute that resolution. Committing to any change is hard, regardless of how much that change needs to happen. Continuing to fine-tune resolutions to fit my life and my schedule at that moment makes it much easier to stick to them. That editing process does not cheapen a resolution — it just accounts for life’s changes. 

A few days later, I reported back to Grammy with two resolutions: to write once a week and to learn how to moonwalk. The latter turned out to be an excellent quarantine activity between watching TV and shuffling from room-to-room in sweatpants. 

As ridiculous as that resolution was, it served its purpose and made me feel better in a rather dark time. It was intentional and new and exactly what a resolution should be. 

It is only January and 2024 is full of possibilities. There are plenty more dances to learn and resolutions to write before we count down to midnight again.