Resolutions Reimagined

New Year’s resolutions expose unmet aspirations, revealing disappointed expectations

Graphic generated using AI DALL-E. Anthony Issa

As the clock struck midnight and jubilant cheers filled the air, many of us embraced the dawn of a new year with a sense of optimism, armed with resolutions promising self-improvement and personal growth. 

Yet, here I stand, a few weeks into the year, and those well-intentioned aspirations I jotted down in my journal are already becoming casualties of a familiar pattern. New Year's resolutions, which are intended as a foundation for self-improvement, frequently fail due to the unrealistic expectations we place them in.

To reflect on my own past futile attempts at New Year's resolutions, I set out to write for The Link in 2023. The pressure of other resolutions overshadowed this aspiration, leaving me paralyzed and unproductive. It wasn't until I stumbled upon another peer’s piece, specifically the one I wanted to write, that I recognized the need for a change in my approach.

When it comes to New Year's resolutions, it feels like there's this unwritten rule that we either have to go big or go home. 

These sky-high goals can sneakily lead us down a path of self-sabotage.

One of the primary culprits behind the failure of resolutions is the societal pressure that accompanies the start of a new year. The collective optimism surrounding January 1st transforms it into a symbolic fresh start, much like the way people view Mondays as a chance to begin anew. 

Rather than building gradual, sustainable habits, we often fixate on lofty objectives that are realistically unattainable. Instead of aiming for drastic change, we must focus on incremental improvements that foster lasting transformation. Psychologically, our propensity to set ambitious goals without considering the principles of habit formation contributes to the high failure rate. 

Consider the typical New Year's resolution as a prime illustration of the pervasive toxic perfectionism mindset. 

A lot of folks, myself included, tend to zero in on the goal of transforming into a supremely fit individual, dedicated to frequent workouts and a pristine diet. While the pursuit of improved health is commendable, the ‘go big or go home’ mindset often leads to a crash, driven by the burden of attempting too much too quickly. This approach may inadvertently attach a sense of inadequacy to one's current body or habits, fostering the perception of a lesser version of oneself.

The notion of discarding our former selves on Jan. 1 and viewing ourselves as inherently flawed hinders progress. In reality, the person we were, prior to the New Year, is still us, and the journey toward self-improvement is a continuum. You're unlikely to find favour in harbouring self-disdain. 

Embracing the concept of healing as a journey rather than a destination allows for a more forgiving and compassionate perspective on personal growth.

To break the cycle of resolution failure, it's essential to recalibrate our mindset and expectations. Rather than succumbing to societal pressures and setting unattainable goals, we should focus on realistic, incremental changes. 

Let’s free ourselves from the burden of unattainable resolutions and embrace the opportunity for ongoing growth.