Every December I fall into the same old trap “As of January 1st, I’m never going to smoke again, I’m going for a run every morning, I’m giving up beer and wine and I’m going to the gym regularly.” These are all absolute resolutions I’ve made in one year or another, and every time so far its ended in failure and embarrassment. That’s not to say I haven’t accomplished these resolutions in part over the years, but I had to go about achieving them in a different way. I now allow myself some wiggle room and then if I am more flexible, goals become much more obtainable
When I resolve to lose weight, for example, I have to give myself some leeway. If I succumb to a moment of weakness and devour an order of chips or a chocolate cake, I need to feel like there’s a reason to continue. If I failed, if I broke my resolution, then it’s over, and there’s no point going on. “I swore I’d never eat chips again, but here I am, licking the chip salt from my fingers. I suppose I can’t hack it.” Of course, in such a situation, I’d try to stick it out, but the feeling of failure would inevitably get to me. So I would slowly give up the diet, and within weeks would return to my former weight, often undoing months of hard work. “There’s always next year,” I’d tell myself.
Now that I’ve stopped stressing about breaking new year’s resolutions, I can consume my chips, feel guilty about it for a few minutes, then still eat a healthy dinner, go to the gym in the morning, etc. Chips become a temporary setback, not a diet-ending catastrophe. And when you think about it, why would “breaking” a resolution be anything more than a setback? You’ve still done all the work to get to that point. So what if you slip up a little? The important thing is that you pick up where you left off.
I’m not going to say that every year I pick a goal and meet it. (Honestly, I’m still working on the whole lasting-weight-loss thing.) But I have achieved many of my resolution-related targets, from dropping pounds to quitting smoking, and I was only able to do it after I gave up worrying about breaking New Year’s resolutions.