As far back as I can remember, I hated New Year’s Eve and even New Year’s Day for that matter. I know hate is a strong word, but I mean it. Even as a very young child, I remember feeling a sense of dread during that week after Christmas as December 31 approached. Something about it always made me feel uneasy and anxious, it felt like an end, instead of a beginning.
Now, as an adult—a professional, a wife, a mom—I realize it was the pressure. I knew I was expected to make a resolution—a promise to myself and others to achieve some lofty task—and that everyone would ask about it for at least a couple of weeks. I’ve let that go now, and can happily say that sense of dread is gone and I now start every year with a clear mind and an open heart, ready to tackle whatever comes my way.
The more I’ve grown to know and truly understand myself and how my brain works, the more I understand that as someone who has always been goal-oriented and takes even the smallest failures personally, the weight of the implications of a New Year’s resolution and the possibility of not successfully achieving that resolution was too much for me, and continued to be too much for me well into my adult life. It’s still too much, so I just don’t do it anymore.
Not only that, but I’m the kind of person that prefers to do rather than tell. For the most part, I don’t share my plans, goals and aspirations with others. Only a select few know those details about me, and even those select few sometimes don’t find out what I have in store until I’m 100 percent certain it’s going to happen.
I prefer to plan and execute quietly, one measured step at a time, and step through open doors as they present themselves. Resolutions don’t really fit into that way of doing things, and feeling like I had to set one at the beginning of each year, just felt wrong…like I was setting myself up for failure and embarrassment.
All that said, I didn’t come to those realizations intentionally. There was no…”okay, self, why do you feel this way,” conversation. I never tried to unpack why I disliked New Year’s so much, I just chose to spend the holiday quietly at home more often than not, reflecting, thinking, cleaning and sometimes crying too, and then I moved on as quickly as possible.
It wasn’t until after I became a stay-at-home mom and freelancer, and my entire life changed, and got much more hectic and overwhelming, that I started to understand why I’d always disliked this time of year. It was at that point that I no longer had to make excuses for staying home, I was too busy and bone-tired to care anything about parties and resolutions.
Before I knew it, a few years had passed, and I realized I hadn’t set a New Year’s resolution or even thought about it at all in quite some time, nor had I felt any guilt about skipping out on New Year’s Eve get togethers. It was then I realized that I didn’t really hate New Year’s anymore. I had let go of what I thought was expected of me, and just let myself be for awhile, and it helped me learn that just like in other areas of life, I could do things my way at the start of each year.
Instead of starting each year with a resolution, I now start each year in a way that centers me, brings me peace and helps me feel capable and powerful. No more resolutions. For me that means committing to doing yoga every day in January. It helps me start the year off mindfully, and if I do nothing more than that, I still feel empowered.
Beyond that, I usually think about where I’d like to travel in the coming year. Travel fills me up, so it’s something I prioritize and picking at least one or two trips to plan for at the beginning of the year, helps me feel hopeful and gives me something to look forward to. Then, I might think of any goals I might like to accomplish or changes I’d like to make in the next few months. Sometimes I put these things in writing and sometimes they stay in my head. There are no rules and no hard deadlines to meet.
In reality, the person I am on January 1, may not be the person I am on July 1. I’d much rather continue to set goals throughout the year and work steadfastly to meet them as I go, instead of forcing myself to commit to something at the beginning of the year that may not even matter to me a few months down the line.
I’ve given myself permission to ease into each new year from now on. That looks a little bit different from year to year, but without declaring some resolution that I’d likely have given up after a few weeks anyway, there’s no longer so much pressure to start the year off hard and fast. I’m choosing to start my years gently, meaningfully, consciously and intentionally.
So if setting New Year’s resolutions excites you, inspires you and helps you stay on track, by all means, keep at it. But if you’re like me, and you always end up dreading the ball drop, agonizing over what resolution you’ll set and disappointed in yourself for not following through, maybe it’s time to try something different. There’s never one way that works for every single person, so don’t feel guilty about bucking tradition and doing what feels right for you. Believe us when we say, entering a new year is a lot more fun and fulfilling when you do it your own way.