In December, nostalgia and reflection take center stage – we look at what we could have done, who we could have been, what we’ve achieved, who and how we’ve loved and lost.
Thankfully, in the Southern Hemisphere December is also summertime, so the planet gifts us warm days that lubricate the letting go. Somehow good things seem better and bad things seem more minor when the sun is shining.
So, in sunshine, we complete our reflections and around Christmas time we stop looking backwards and start to look forwards. We make plans for New Years Eve, and start to think of resolutions.
New Years Resolutions are not the type of things you would want to have tattooed on yourself.
Their commitments are often externally motivated – a better body, to procrastinate less, to read particular books or watch particular films, to drink less, to be someone who is instagrammable.
Their commitments are flimsy and sometimes inauthentic, but I think there is value in the process of resolving.
Resolving forces you to confront yourself. It says 'look in the mirror, look at your life, what do you not like?' This can be a brutal process – sometimes we’re stuck in patterns because of fear, living a life inauthentic.
Sometimes the decisions we’ve made to choose a particular way of being (of living, of loving) were the wrong ones and we feel trapped.
Maybe we’ve hurt people. Maybe we’ve hurt ourselves to avoid hurting others. Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing we could do better, be kinder, be braver.
Resolving forces us to try and look inwards for a few moments. The hope comes in when we are able to do this inward looking honestly, and come out with something that we really want.
Resolving reminds you of your power to choose. Making a resolution reminds you that there is somewhere to go from here – that we are not static, and that our movement from where we are to where we want to be often depends on us.
Ultimately resolutions require us to try to take charge of our future – to take responsibility for the path we will follow, to know that our choices have an impact.
It’s January when the hope comes in – we hope we’re brave enough to make the choices we need to in the year ahead.
Resolving is exciting, and makes you excited about your future. As someone who survived a lot of really rough things last year, and ended the year under a little grey rain cloud, making a list of things that I might like to do this year was exciting.
It felt refreshing to think of positive things, to feel that I was coming out of the gloom. I think goal setting feels this way for a lot of people – it gives you a little glimmer of belief in your own ability to stick to things.
Because of the scale of the excitement and possibility, we’re often similarly extremely disappointed when we fail at our resolutions.
I think that when you make resolutions, the final one should always be that you ‘resolve not to hate yourself if you fail.’
Resolving to allow yourself to fail and make mistakes takes a lot of the pressure off. The hope comes in with the belief that we can do this.
Resolutions are unlikely to solve everything, even less likely to last 365 days, but they are an opportunity to reflect, to choose, to get excited.
They are an opportunity for hope, and there is always something magical about that feeling.
Perhaps instead of every year, they should be made more regularly – every month, week, every day? Perhaps instead of high flung goals, they should be focused and realistic?
Perhaps when we fail to achieve them, we should take this as another opportunity, not to punish ourselves but to see where we got lost along the way, and what it is we can hope for now.