Raise your hand if you made a new year resolution.
Now raise your hand if you think making and breaking resolutions carries a certain stigma, so instead you prefer to stick with simply setting goals.
My arm goes up for the latter, but of course that’s just to-mae-to / to-mah-to. I think we just can’t help but feel like a new year promises a fresh start and that maybe we can use the opportunity to create something even better out of the blank canvas we’re being offered.
It’s like that feeling you got on the first day of school with a backpack full of new. Sharp pencils, clean erasers, and my personal favorite – a fresh notebook. There is just something about those crisp, white pages that I love – and to this day I can’t help but long for perfect blue lines and that new notebook smell.
When I’m meandering the aisles at Target, and one of those pretty spiral notebooks catches my eye, I can almost hear Kelly asking me why I want to buy one. Sometimes it’s because he’s standing right beside me. But even when his voice is just in my head, I know that the purpose of having a notebook in the first place means it can’t stay perfect forever. I’m a note-taker and I like to doodle, so it doesn’t take long before those pages become crinkled and messy, which means I’ll soon face the temptation to throw it out and be in need of yet another new notebook.
A lot of times years can become disheveled like that. We have ambitions to make it “the best year ever” or to basically overcome all of our imperfections over-night. And then reality clutters up our fresh start, and we’re left feeling inadequate and disappointed. The strange thing is, even though I can’t think of a single year that we met every single expectation we placed on ourselves, we continue to seek ambitious improvements year after year.
Just a couple weeks in to the year may seem a bit premature to be having this conversation, and I realize most people are still in “you can do it” mode, but there’s a reason for my madness, I promise.
I think it’s important to recognize that the very nature of striving for improvement is pushing beyond our current limitations, which means somewhere along the way, we’re going to stretch out of our reach, fall down, and face the fact that we “failed”.
So what do we do with the rest of the year once we have fallen short of our new year resolutions?
Are we going to discard the progress we’ve made thus far and await another clean slate?
Throw in the towel all-together, hopelessly accepting that things will never change?
Or do we choose to see each attempt, whether partially-successful or completely-bombed, as a lesson learned and progress made towards an ongoing development.
Whether we set our sights high, or are taking baby steps, it helps to know ahead of time what we’re going to do when things don’t turn out like we expected. To not be so hard on ourselves when we find that it’s going to take falling a few times to figure it out. And to set our sights on being intentional day by day rather than 12 months at a time.
The thing is, as much as I hate to admit it, I really do love New Year Resolutions. When you get past the cliché, it’s really just about taking the opportunity to be intentional. And whether it’s in our work, our health, or our relationships, I think it’s well worth the effort.