Social media was abuzz at the beginning of this year with captions like "same me, new year" and "how-to guides for realistic resolutions." And if we take the people's voice as a directive, then it appears resolutions are a thing of the past. Or the very least people are tired of declaring how much better they'll be in the new year. All of this points to the idea of a New Year's resolution as being a thing of the past.
Should we call this phenomenon resolution fatigue or a culture-shift?
You may be thinking, what's a year without lofty expectations? Worry not, it's not goal-setting itself that's out of style; no, that's still popular. But no one's going to shame you for laying aside performative new years resolutions (or as I like to call them traditional resolutions.) Resolutions are just examples of people trying to lead an authentic life. But authenticity is only possible If we stop mimicking the influencers we follow, and instead nurture our strengths.
When you look at it this way, throwing (a once exciting) resolution practice out the window becomes an intriguing concept.
There's a Difference Between a Resolution and Organizing Your Life
New year's resolutions are tricky because there's an immense amount of social pressure surrounding them. We want to differentiate between what we're calling "traditional resolutions" that can be performative in nature, from intentional resolution setting.
A new years resolution is a goal that it isn't always well-though out, but it can be. Resolutions remain a festive decoration until you integrate them into short term and long-term goals.
It's sort of comical how resolutions fall to the wayside when the pressure gets to be too much. Contrarily, goals, planners, and time management tools stay in fluctuating use throughout the year. Our stationary buying habits say; regardless of what time of year it is, that we still feel a need to organize life.
Here are some numbers. We like numbers. Sales of appointment books, paper planners, and calendars are increasing. Wall calendars alone (we're not even talking about planners) are supposed to grow from 168.3 million dollars USD in 2020 to 213.2 million USD by 2026. But in 2021, 25.98% of American Americans decided to not set a new year's resolution. I bet those people own a planner or journal though.
Life is hectic people need goals and actionable plans and organizational aids to keep on track. As someone else so artfully put it, "a planner represents a daily visual guide of what your life priorities are and how they will get accomplished."
Basically, this means it's okay to want organization, but no extreme measures are needed. You can still set a new years goal but it should be realistic, attainable, and worked toward every day.
We want to say one last thing about resolutions being a thing of the past and go a step further. People aren't experiencing resolution fatigue on social media. On the contrary, a small part of society is marching enthusiastically away from "traditional" new year's resolutions in the new year. People don't want the deadlines (when you haven't lost 40 pounds by April), shame (when you don't meet a goal you publicly announced), or anxiety (when a financial plan meets a hiccup.)
There's a Forbes article that compresses it all together rather nicely:
"Resolutions can't lead to sustainable behavior change because they are not constructed in a way that harnesses motivation and turns it into action and change."
How To Set Better Goals
There are two common methods for goal setting that will see you through. SMART goal setting is good for short-term goals. The PACT method is ideal for crafting long-term sustainable endeavors. We clap for both.
What is the SMART method for setting goals?
[Anchored in a] Timeframe
What is the PACT method for setting goals?
Purposeful: "Should be meaningful to your long-term purpose in life." The keyword here is purposeful, not "task-y." Many small things need to be done to meet the larger goal. Your tasks are not your goals.
Actionable: What can be done today and not planned for tomorrow?
Continuous: Strive for continuous improvement, set tasks that are identifiable, direct, and can be repeated. Don't give yourself so many choices right at the beginning; just start.
Trackable: Yes and no questions here, very simple. Did you do X, Y, and Z today? Mark it down.
Traditional New Year's Resolutions That Could Be Holding You Back
You may not be sold on ditching those adrenaline inducing resolutions on January 1st. Here's another reason, some experts believe New Year resolutions are bad for mental health. Researches say the increased stress this practice places on us and the additional impact of when a resolution fails can leave us picking up shattered pieces of our self esteem.
However, we also believe they fail because the intentions didn't come from the right place. For example, take the resolution: make time for self-care. Firstly, "make time" and "self-care" is not specific or measurable. Secondly, self-care is a buzzword, but what does it mean for you?
Finally, if you don't know what taking care of your spirit, mind, and body looks like, then "make time for self-care" seems awfully performative. Any change you want to make should align with your sense of purpose and be made with the right intentions.
Ways To Make Impactful Goals
And then there's the biggest reason a goal fails; it wasn't specific enough. That's when goal-setting methods come in.
Applying the SMART model to "Make time for self-care":
Specific: Name the task(s). What does self-care look like for you? Here are some examples: "I followed my morning/evening routine," or "I showered and took my time to scrub, cleanse, and breath deep." "I will take a walk as soon as I feel anxious." "I'm cutting my social media screen time down by 30% this week. (Break it down to a certain amount of hours each day, but this can be flexible.)
Measurable: Ask yourself, how will I know when this is accomplished? For measuring, we recommend journaling after each act of self-care. You can make a spreadsheet or even open up a note. How did you feel before and after the activity? Responses could be lethargic, bored, happy, content, still stressed, clear-headed, energized, or excited. You could fill in bubbles forming a scale from "1 being blah" and "5 being euphoric."
Achievable: Consider time and money constraints when making goals. Ask yourself, am I capable of achieving this daily or even weekly bias?
Relevant: Does this goal align with your life purpose, your sense of self, and fit into where you're at in life right now?
[Anchored in a] Timeframe: What can I do today to work toward this goal? What can I do tomorrow, and how do I picture this working out for me three weeks from now?
The Secret Sauce
Another overlooked reason could be that the resolution didn't provide enough wiggle room. If you're truly doing something for yourself, you'll adapt and go at a pace that feels right for you (as an act of self-care.) Proceeding too rigorously can feel like running up the "down" escalator. Don't make a change more uncomfortable than it already may be.
So we think there are two takeaways from traditional New Year's resolutions becoming obsolete: one, you can take a break from the unrealistic and instead practice beneficial goal-setting.
The second way you can skirt around the "resolution fatigue" is by really getting down to the fine print. The goal needs to be realistic and made for the right reasons that support your sense of self.
Happy New Year!