A New Year’s Resolution: Ditching the list

Written by Cam Khalid
Art by Content Pixie

You know the drill. It’s December 31st and you reflect on everything that has happened throughout the year. You begin to reconsider the stuff you want to start, stop or continue, fingers crossed for a better future. You make a mental list (or key it down in your Notes app) of New Year’s resolutions. “New year, new me!” – you tell yourself and everyone else. Cheers.

Looking back now, most of the resolutions I’ve created were based on shallow trends, social norms or something someone has told me to change. I remember prioritizing weight loss in 2017 after a relative pointed out my weight gain: “What a waste of a pretty face.” While it was a horrible quote that lived in my mind rent free for a couple of months, it managed to get me to sign up for a gym membership.

Sure there was some good in listing New Year’s resolutions. There were undesired habits that I wanted to break and personal goals that I wanted to achieve. On paper, these looked feasible, but year after year I found myself failing more than half of my resolutions. I would give myself an excuse like lacking the funds for a gym subscription, not being mentally ready for a certain task, or prioritizing my day job over my hobbies. Sometimes it can be something as silly as blaming the gloomy weather for not completing my daily walks. 

I guess the idea of starting fresh on an arbitrary date like January 1st was easier said than done.

In 2020, I had a list that  included eating less meat, being more sustainable, travelling more and spending less time on social media – the latter of  which bombed thanks to the compulsion of doomscrolling through the pandemic. I gave myself a pass for that. And… for most of the things on the list too. It was a tough year, okay?

Then 2021 rolled in, and instead of fireworks, only uncertainty hung in the air on New Year’s Eve. So I thought to myself: what’s the point of making another list? The previous year has left me feeling anxious, burnt out and exhausted. I was completing my master’s degree and working full-time in a world that felt like a five-alarm fire. At that point, obsessing over new beginnings in the new year just felt daunting and unnatural. Creating a list of New Year’s resolutions would just feel like a mandate to fix myself in a world that’s still coming to terms with the new norm.

Two years on and the last thing I want to do is put too much pressure on myself, especially when Covid restrictions still apply. For example, the constant across all of my resolutions lists happens to be weight loss. But in the last 24 months, I’ve re-evaluated my relationship with my body. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself as my body responds to the stress. Even if I plan to go to the gym five days a week to shed a couple of kilos, I’d find myself in a sticky situation if it shuts because of Covid. Mapping out plans at this time, let alone a list of New Year’s resolutions, just seems futile.

In the name of self-care and well-being, I’m now learning to propel any toxic energy and attract only good vibes without having to rely on a list. I take time to reflect on my choices, trust my instincts and make the necessary changes, one step at a time throughout the year. And to be honest, doing so feels quite liberating, so why not continue ditching the list in 2022? 

Don’t get me wrong – while skeptics like me may stew over whether the practice is worthwhile, there’s no doubt that drawing up resolutions still makes a great way to set up good intentions. But personally, it’s the practices that are developed throughout the year that matter most. This will enable us to keep them long-term. After all, there is no one way and no deadline when it comes to achieving our goals.