Why I Don’t Do New Year’s Resolutions


If anyone around here needs to get herself to the gym ASAP, it’s me. (It’s been months, people. RED ALERT.) To be honest, I’m actually planning to head back in January, but I feel like I want to be clear: It won’t be because of any New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve just never been a New Year’s resolution kind of girl. I think this is why:

1. My personal growth doesn’t follow calendar time.

I absolutely believe in making improvements, setting goals, and implementing disciplines. But my need for that kind of structure rarely shows up on January 1. For me, growth means paying attention to what is needed during any given season—or moment— and adjusting as I go.

2. I refuse to set myself up for failure.

As a recovering perfectionist, I am very susceptible to the “I failed” message. Making an unrealistic promise to do (or not do) something for an entire year—or, yikes, the rest of my life?—feels like an invitation to be mean to myself when I’m unable to deliver. Yes, there are ways I could work through this scenario without beating myself up but, in this particular case, I’d rather not travel down a path that can trigger my perfectionism.

3. I’m allergic to shoulds.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that no one experiences my best self when I’m following a “should.” When I’m doing something purely out of obligation or compliance, I become resentful, victimy, and lazy. At one point in my life, this was my primary way of functioning. But since I broke free and took ownership of my decisions, my “should” radar is strong. Basically, if I pick up on the message that I “should” make a New Year’s resolution (or my bed, or dinner), I very likely won’t. This might not be the healthiest reason to make a choice, but at least it’s a choice. And I’m sticking to it.

4. I’m not motivated by dates.

Unless that date is a gala and I want to do enough chaturanga poses beforehand to build up some killer arm definition for my evening gown. Wait. Actually, even that didn’t motivate me in 2017… Yeah, dates don’t do it for me.

Why I Don’t do New Year’s Resolutions – Wit & Delight

5. I’m more motivated by natural fresh starts.

After 10 years and 150,000ish miles with my previous vehicle, I recently bought a new car. (Yay!) For the first time in ages, I’ve been sliding into a spotless front seat with an empty back seat (**shocking**). So far I’m doing a pretty stellar job of bringing the tea thermos back to the kitchen and dropping off the endless cycle of thrift store donations within days vs. months.

What’s driving this shift is the freshness of this new vehicle, plus the fact that both my children have their own cars now and I can’t blame the mess on them they aren’t contributing to the mess. I feel newly motivated to keep my surroundings peaceful, so I am. I haven’t made myself any promises about it, but I’m enjoying the payoff immensely, and that gives this new clean streak a strong possibility of sticking around.

6. I really value promises.

To me, a resolution is a promise, and I don’t make promises lightly. Maybe I’m taking this all too seriously, but I can’t seem to do otherwise. I just don’t like to make a commitment I might not be able to keep. Not even to myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make a lifelong behavior change. I have amazing, brave friends in recovery from addiction who have accomplished just that—and I’ve made plenty of my own life changes over the years. But a lot more goes into that kind of success than tacking up a new calendar and vowing to be different from January 1 forward.

Instead of resolutions, I’ve recently embraced the trend of choosing a word for the new year. For 2017, my word was “expand.” I held this word in my thoughts and brought it to mind throughout the months. I was intentional about challenging myself to expand in new ways, and I made a point to observe the ways I did.

Sure enough, throughout this past year, my career and professional skills have expanded greatly. So has my definition of family, my experience of friendship, my relationships with my kids, my hope for the future, and the peace in my household after a major decluttering effort sent more than 12 SUV-loads to the thrift store (thus the perpetually full back seat).

I haven’t chosen a word yet for 2018, but it might have something to do with letting go. In January, unrelated to the decluttering, my sweet daughter/sidekick is about to move herself and all of her belongings out of the room down the hall and into a room 400 miles away in Chicago. Suddenly, I will have more space and time to fill.

That’s the reason my Tuesday night yoga instructor might finally see my face again after the new year. It’s a natural transition. And it will feed my body and soul, right when I need it most.

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Julie Rybarczyk is a freelance writer, fair-weather blogger, and well-intentioned mom who has almost never remembered to send lunch money to school. She’s perpetually the chilliest person living in Minneapolis—so most of the year you’ll find her under layers of wool, behind steaming cups of tea. Or at  shortsandlongs.net.

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