Why I Believe in New Year’s Resolutions (and, If You Really Want to Know, My Resolutions for 2018)

I am a person who believes in New Year’s resolutions. But I am also a person who believes in breaking them.

The first day of the year is an astonishingly arbitrary day to reexamine our pasts and set new goals for our futures. Why not the 3rd? Or the 79th? Or the 230th? The 1st of the year is unremarkable in all ways except that it happens to be the first day of the year according to an archaic calendrical system that arbitrarily sets the first day of the year on this particular day. It’s not even on the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, the first day of winter. That would make a lot more sense.

Why not set resolutions today? It’s as good a day as any.

But there’s also no reason why we shouldn’t abandon these same noble goals the instant they’re no longer conducive to our growth. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t recalibrate on the 92nd day of the year (or the 91st or the 93rd) or conceive of new goals altogether. If I resolve to go for a run every morning, but by March have completely burnt out on running and loathe the sight of my running shoes, it’s time to rethink my resolution.

Resolutions are like a compass pointing north. They point us in the right direction, but the dial will move as we do. We must never be afraid to change course as the compass moves.

Some people like specific resolutions. Some like very broad resolutions. Mine vary from year to year, from month to month, depending on my goals and objectives. Here are my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 – all subject to change at a moment’s notice.

Light in the Forest

1. Talk less, listen more. 

I’m no chatty Cathy, but I spend a lot of time in conversation waiting for my turn to speak and carefully planning my next point. This year I will practice deep listening, slowing down my thoughts, and listening to the world around me. Even if this means occasionally coming across as slow or awkward in conversations, I hope it will allow me more space to process my thoughts and a deeper appreciation for the words of others.

2. Meditate daily. 

2017 was the first year I began a long-term meditation practice. In June, after a traumatizing fight with my partner, I took a hard look at my behavior patterns and realized I was allowing my emotions to run away with me. I began studying meditation first as a form of personal therapy and second as a way to calm and clear my mind. I’m definitely still a novice, and I don’t meditate every day, but I love the moments of quiet and stillness. In 2018, I aim to expand this practice to a daily thing – even if it means some sessions only get 3-5 minutes of practice.

3. Work smarter and harder. 

That’s right. While the industrial-capitalist complex is encouraging us to push more and more of ourselves into the daily grind in order to come out on top, I’m embracing this – for very different reasons. I love what I do as a writer and an editor. I want to do more of it. And I want to do it better. This year I’m devoting myself to improving my craft, committing to more and diverse projects, and growing as a professional in my field.

4. Spend meaningful time on social media. 

Does that sound like a contradiction in terms? I disagree. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with old friends, share your news and updates with the world, and connect vicariously with people around the world. But it’s too easy to get sucked into scrolling endlessly through the Facebook or Instagram feed, using social media to avoid the world rather than to connect with it. In 2018 I plan to limit my time spent scrolling through the feeds, engage more with friends and family, and use my own posts to share good news and special moments without getting sucked into the void of reposting inane bullshit. (And definitely no arguing about politics in the comments section!)

5. Enter the arena.

This was one of my resolutions last year, and it was such a challenge and an opportunity for growth that I’m extending it. I suspect it will be an ongoing resolution for most of my adult life. It’s based on a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which reads as follows:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;. . . who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

When I wrote this last year I meant it as a political challenge to myself – a kick in the butt to get involved in organizing and participating actively in our democracy – and that aspect remains. But this year, the resolution is not limited to politics. It applies to all aspects of life – personal, professional, athletic, community. It goes hand in hand with talk less, listen more, because to enter the arena meaningfully and impactfully means I have to double down on my commitment to respecting those around me. When I resolve to enter the arena I resolve to fight for the things I believe in, to stand up and lead in areas where I have expertise, and to listen and learn from those around me so that I am constantly improving.

These are my New Year’s resolutions for 2018. What are yours?