New Year, Same Me: Rethinking Resolutions in 2021

For many of us, the beginning of a new year means one thing and one thing only: resolutions. Each year, we are expected to wake up on January 1st with a detailed list of ways to better ourselves and, each year, most of us inevitably forget them in under a week. Whether it’s to lose weight, to quit smoking, or to drink more water, new year’s resolutions seem to repeat themselves year by year; it’s almost like the beginning of a new year is the only time we believe that we’re allowed to become a new person. But, with most of 2020 spent indoors and growing increasingly uncertain about the world around us, I’ve recently been asking myself: is 2021 really the best time to be making our same old resolutions? 

With the world swaying in and out of lockdowns for the better part of a year, the concept of time has seemed almost non-existent — or, at least, the worth in acknowledging its passage has. As a goal-oriented person, in the years prior to the pandemic I have been prone to the usual spiel: exercise more, cut out junk food, finally pick up my long-forgotten guitar again- none of which have ever stuck, of course (the layer of dust on my Yamaha is reaching dangerous levels). Yet, as 2021 approached, I failed to experience that familiar urge to set resolutions for the year. Is it my reluctance to place any hope in the future during such uncertain times? The feeling of a total lack of control? General pandemic fatigue? Whatever the reason may be, my drive for self-improvement seems to have died off somewhere between experiencing my first and third lockdown. And I know many other people feel the same way: the idea of productivity definitely seems to have lost its lustre in these long and lonely winter days. But, all hope is not lost; perhaps there’s a way to maintain the tradition of resolutions without adding any more unneeded weight to our shoulders. 

In the wake of the pandemic, I’ve found myself this year drawn to goals that differ slightly from the more concrete, results-based resolutions I’ve set for myself in the past. ‘Be present’, ‘be patient’, and ‘don’t push yourself too hard’ have replaced the same old fitness or recreational goals. While I suppose these are still resolutions in themselves, they don’t exactly hold the same level of responsibility that we may be used to in terms of new year’s goals. But, personally, that’s exactly what I need in the midst of all the chaos: a little extra kindness. While, previously, the start of a new year has seemed like the perfect opportunity to push myself to my limits, to reset all of my bad habits, I think a different approach may be needed for 2021.

If there’s one thing that 2020 taught me, it’s the benefits of taking a break from the rat race every now and then, and just letting yourself breathe for a moment or two. Today’s world is definitely anxiety-inducing for a multitude of reasons, and at first glance, setting strict goals for ourselves may seem like the perfect way to gain some control over our respective situations. However, I think there’s a strong case to be made for the simpler, more lenient resolutions in such difficult times. Instead of forcing myself into excessive productivity under the guise of self-transformation, this year I’ve resolved to take a deep breath and give myself a pat on the back. The old ‘go to the gym three times a week’ and ‘watch less Netflix’ can wait until 2022, right? 

[Bea Crawford – she/ her]

[Photo credit: Polina Kovaleva]

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