Ugh, January 1. It's a hard day — and not just because your brain is probably threatening to ooze out of your ears at any moment (for more on that, see our recommendations for some excellent hangover cures). Add the pressure of a "fresh start," and it's almost unbearable.
Okay, so maybe that's a bit of a pessimistic way to begin things. This is, literally, a new year! What better time to get a fresh life and finally do everything you've always wanted? We humans require compartmentalization and organization to make us do things; we can't just change at any old time — we have to wait until the calendar tells us it's the right moment. And, honestly, for a lot of people, New Year's resolutions can be a great thing. In fact, we offer quite a few different approaches to finding and sticking to the right goals. But, sometimes we do wonder if there isn't an alternative perspective that ought to be mentioned.
For some of us — particularly, er, the lazier types — those resolutions can actually be more of a negative force than a positive one. They are, to put it bluntly, just another excuse to not actually do anything. First of all, you get to put off your goals until 1/1, which makes for a very unproductive December. Then, there's the fact that sometimes, especially when the goals are loftier and more existential than working out or cleaning your closet, labeling something a resolution can actually be dangerously reductive. If your particular resolve is connected to some deep unhappiness or a buried desire you're wary to acknowledge, calling it a resolution only lets you wrap it up in a nice package that, in the end, can be just as easily discarded as an outstanding credit card bill.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
If that sounds relatable, we would humbly suggest that, instead of resolving to do anything specific or to change something more tangible in your life, you do the more difficult but probably more necessary thing: Choose to simply know yourself. Don't worry about the gym, the laundry, or flossing your teeth more (actually, you probably should worry about flossing your teeth — it's extremely important). Worry — or, rather, examine — what is driving all of your little goals and resolutions, and try to understand what your dissatisfactions in 2013 were really about.
Of course, we can't prescribe exactly how to go about this. For some, it might mean therapy; for others, maybe it's just a long bath. But, the point is this: Don't let the Pinterest-ing promise of a fresh, clean start distract you from something deeper that might be going on. New Year's resolutions are all well and good, but they shouldn't be mindless. It's easy to want a perfect, salad-eating life in which you do yoga and return home to cook a fancy dinner and enjoy fine wine after a ridiculously efficient workday. Resolving to do things like that automatically, though, can be sort of an easy way out. If you do some soul-searching and still end up there, good for you, and best of luck.
In fact, it doesn't really matter where you end up. What counts is that you arrive there after facing yourself, who you've been, who you are, and who you want to be with purpose and bravery. It might be scary, but it's better than going another year covering up deep cuts with cheap bandages. And, in the end, you might just come out of this with fewer scars.
So, here's to 2014. We don't know if it will be the best year, ever. But, here's a resolution we can really get behind: Let's make it a year that doesn't slip by unexamined — or unappreciated. Shall we drink (a green smoothie, of course) to that?