My love/hate relationship with New Year
You can’t go anywhere at this time of year without someone irresistibly promising you a ‘new year, new you’.
New Year’s Eve can feel like an exhilarating cleansing ritual; a chance to get rid of all that is negative about you, all the bad, all the rubbish from last year; an opportunity to start afresh with a clean, perfect, blank sheet; a new year, a new you.
I love making New Year’s Resolutions - it’s like a wish list of glorious things that would make my life perfect - a vision of what everything could be like if I were more motivated, capable, strong-minded - basically just more.
This wish list is also why I hate New Year’s Resolutions. This wish list says my life and I need a major overhaul and suggests everything might be a bit rubbish at the moment and needs to be better. This quest for perfection, fuelled by other people’s carefully selected and edited images on social media that we are subjected to daily, means we are in danger of trying to airbrush out the very stuff that makes us better.
But New Year’s Resolutions don’t need to be about deleting the previous year’s crap and trying to create perfection. All that negativity from last year can serve a valuable purpose. Messing up really badly generally leads to some form of self-reflection (albeit after a touch of self-loathing and self-pity) which hopefully then leads to self-development and improvement. If all we ever do is try to paste over the crap and broadcast perfection, we miss a million opportunities for growth and stagnate in the process.
New Year’s Resolutions are only useful if they are born from hiccoughs, mistakes, unmitigated disasters or even the ruins of last year - that’s growing and learning from prior errors. Wanting to reinvent ourselves entirely and unrealistically every year based on other people’s projections stems from a senseless desire to be someone else.
So rather than going for that throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater approach, it’s healthier for our mental states to be a little less polarised in how we view ourselves. We are fluid, dynamic people, which means we don’t always like everything about ourselves. But those aspects of ourselves that we want to change are still aspects of our personalities that have led us where we are today. And that’s OK. Nobody is perfect. Aim for progress not perfection.
New Year’s Resolutions are an opportunity to reflect on our lives as social beings and as individuals rather than crushing all that makes us who we are. It’s an opportunity for us to explore ourselves in relation to our local environment and the world, not a reason to discard everything we have done. It’s a chance for us to look at where we are in terms of our careers and our lifetime on this planet. Have we achieved what we set out to achieve. Do we know what we want to achieve; does it matter?
If you are happy with where you are and what you are doing, with who you are and where you are going and you feel New Year’s day is just like any other day, then I applaud you. You have found Nirvana. You are content with your lot and that is a wonderful achievement.
If you know there are still things you want to do and you are unsure of the path you need to take, then New Year’s Eve is a really great opportunity for some serious reflection and some genuine goal-setting.
Here are three different approaches to making New Year’s Resolutions that suit different personalities.
1 - Set yourself up for success - by being realistic. Set achievable goals that have some sort of criteria for success - make them tangible. So rather than the vague: get stronger in 2019; go for: add 10kg to my back squat by July 31st.
This way, you will get yourself achievable wins that make you feel good and you will undoubtedly move forwards. if you are not used to goal-setting or you are great at talking yourself out of things, this is a good way to go.
2 - Set yourself up for success - by being unrealistic. Set dream goals that are beyond your current capability or beyond what you think you can achieve. So rather than: be able to do a pullup by the end of the year; go with: be able to do three linked bar muscleups by the end of the year.
This way, you might not reach those greedy goals but you may hit the moon in your quest or the stars! This is a good way to go if you are afraid of failure - by setting yourself a target you ‘know’ you cannot achieve, you will be less focused on the end game and more focused on the journey - which is where all the good stuff happens anyway. This is also good for people who know themselves well and are able to set dream goals, knowing they will hit a load of smaller goals on the way. And oddly, you often end up hitting those greedy goals too!
3 - Set yourself up for success - by not setting goals! Stop thinking about destinations and start thinking more in the moment. You are alive right now. You are living your life right now. Setting goals puts your perspective way out in front of you, meaning you stop focusing on the details and the here and now.
If your goal is a lifelong quest for better movement and to stay out of hospital as you age, you just have to keep training. Follow your programme. Keep on improving. In the process, you will get fitter, faster, stronger and more skilled and hit a load of milestones along the way. Look after your training pennies and your strength and skill pounds will look after themselves.
Whatever your path is, to find it and follow it, you need to be ruthless in your self-analysis. Use the negativity from last year to inform your approach to this year. Keep what you need to grow, discard what holds you back and move into the New Year safe in the knowledge that you don’t need to cleanse yourself of all that is negative in order to become a more positive version of who you already are.