3 Reasons not to make New Year’s Resolutions (& what to do instead!)

So, it’s that time of year again. As in the start of a new one.


I never know how I really feel about this time of year.

There’s a sense of hope for the year ahead but a sense of burden around the work that’ll need doing for that hope to come to fruition.

There’s a warm glow left over from all the merriment of Christmas and New Year celebrations, coupled with a tinge of sadness that it’s all over for another year.

Did we enjoy it as much as we could? Did we do everything we wanted to? Does it matter that I fell asleep before midnight on NYE again and only managed to play one game with my family in between naptime and other Mousing duties!?

Part of me wants fling open the windows and let the new year in properly and afresh, and part of me wants to put Elf on the TV, feast on chocolate oranges, invite the whole family round for games and pretend it’s still December.

Instead, in the midst of this strange dilemma, I find myself doing neither, instead I’m sitting here in my pyjamas at well past midday not quite being able to bring myself to do anything useful at all.

I have a list of ‘stuff’ that ‘needs’ doing today. Vegging out (again) was not on it.

Truth be told, instead of feeling upbeat and let me at ‘em ready to start afresh and kick 2018’s butt, I’m feeling all kinds of ‘meh’.

And then there’s that whole new year’s resolutions thing niggling away at me.

I’m not sure I’ve ever made a new year’s resolution.

I actually hate new year’s resolutions. For three reasons.

1. Because I don’t understand why we have to wait for the first day of a new year to make changes for the better.

There is never a perfect time for anything and hanging around waiting for 1 day out of 365 to start doesn’t seem very sensible to me. The right time is now, whenever now is.  Baby steps, all year round.  Little by little, that’s how changes are made. Not grand gestures on Jan 1st. Plus change is about evolution isn’t it? About moulding and adapting as you go…not blindly trying to stick to something daft you came up with on a whim on Jan 1st.

2. Because they don’t work.

There’s loads of research and science out there (which I’m too lazy to look up and reference right now) that shows how and why new year’s resolutions fail. Mostly because the goals we set are normally too rigid and unrealistic. Too big and not at all practical. And because we seem to have this all or nothing approach.

For example, somebody who’s never before set foot in a gym vows to sign up and go 4 times a week. Which they do. For a week. Before realising that was ridiculous and they can’t keep it up so they stop altogether and eat a giant Toblerone to console themselves.

Maybe a better idea would have been to vow to walk for 5 minutes a day a few times a week. Then 10minutes, then when that becomes a habit, add in some weights etc. Build on it as you go, scale it back if you get ahead of yourself.  Little by little. Build in some room for messing up.

Some people work best going cold turkey…but many of us don’t. Whatever it is we’re vowing to do, chances are we’re going to balls it up at least once.  Cue the harsh self chat: “I’m SO useless, I knew I couldn’t do it. WHY did I have to eat/drink/smoke that!? I’ve RUINED it now. There’s no point, I give up”. Or, how about “hey, you’re human, it doesn’t matter. Take it in your stride, pick yourself up and start again”?

and finally, 3. Because new year’s resolutions always seem to somehow be so unkind to ourselves.

They tend to start from a point of negativity. I’m so fat, I need to stop eating in 2014. I’m so unfit, I’m going to go to the gym 15 times a day. I’m so rubbish with money, I’m going to do a budget and stick to it. Ugh I’m so hungover and disgusting I am NEVER drinking again. etc.

Self improvement? Great. Becoming a little bit better at whatever it is? Fine. Shoulding and needing and musting all over the shop? Not good.

To me, New Year’s resolutions seem to be more about punishment and self loathing than about a fresh start.  I’d like them a lot more if they were about being nicer to yourself, not continuing to berate yourself.  There’s so much pressure. To get it right, to keep going. Yet scientifically we know we’re doomed to fail.


And then I asked myself, why are we setting these resolutions anyway? Why is it we want to lose weight? Why do we want to save money? Why do we want to get fitter?

I bet, if we asked “why?” enough it’d all boil down to the same answer. To be happier.


Which of us has honestly never said, “I’ll be happier when…”?  But we’ve got it all wrong, happiness just doesn’t work like that.

Read Shawn Achor, his Happiness Advantage is all about how that logic is totally the wrong way round. Being happier is what helps you achieve success and not the other way around.


And with those thoughts mulling around in my head (which reminds me, I forgot to make mulled wine again this year), I decided I was going to mark the start of the new year after all, but not with resolutions. Instead I’m setting my intentions based around how I would like to feel this year rather than around what I want to do, I’m making myself 2 promises as a result AND, as usual, I’ve picked my word of the year to help guide me:

In 2018 I would like to feel calm, content and free…any goals I set and plans I make will be guided by this intention.

1. In 2018 I vow to be nicer and kinder to myself.

To not have a nervous breakdown every time I slip up, make a mistake, fall behind or get it wrong. I promise to accept imperfect over striving for ‘perfect’, to give myself a break, to keep my goals, ambitions and expectations realistic and my reactions to not meeting them in check. For 2018 I vow to believe that, and behave as if, I have enough, I am enough.

2. In 2018 I vow to be happier.

To be grateful every day. To find opportunity in hardship. To smile and laugh and share. To do more of what I know makes me happy and heed less that which does not. To be true to myself so that my thoughts, feelings and actions do not clash, but match. To stop and notice and savour. To cherish every moment so that when I get to this point next year, I can look back and say, wow, 2018, what a happy year that was.

And my word of the year this year? Simplify – Stop making everything more complicated than it needs to be. Cut it all back. Chuck out what’s not serving. Streamline, declutter and let it all go.

What about you?

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