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New Year, New Me: The Trap of New Years Resolutions to Self Improvement

We’ve all been there. The clock strikes twelve, we scream “happy new year” with loved ones and familiar faces around. We toast to a new year and a new sense of self. Slipping into our beds, too tired to bother cleaning up, our minds linger on all the goals we have planned for the new year. We have our last semi-coherent thought and drift into slumber.

We wake up the next day at 6:00 AM – because that’s the time our favorite Instagram influencer wakes up – groggy but charged and excited for this new moment of new beginnings. That day, we do it all. The one-hour workout, the morning meditation, and journaling. We drink our kale and flaxseed smoothies at noon and eat our low-carb dinner at dusk. We land in bed, more drained from our new routine than refreshed, but we tell ourselves that’s just the starting point. We tell ourselves it takes 21 days to form a habit, and so we set the alarm again and drift to sleep.

By the end of the first week, we cut down the one-hour workout to half an hour because we just “don’t have the time.” By the end of week two, we’ve cut the working out and meditating completely out, settling for healthy eating as a means to say we are still working towards our goals. By week four those low carb dinners and nightly affirmations are a thing of the past. We completely forget all about our “new year, new me” commitment, and drift back into our old unfulfilling habits. The truth is “New Year, New Me” has never worked, and it never will.

The “New Year, New Me” motto is a myth, a hoax that says at the beginning of the New Year when the clock strikes twelve, we can be a completely new person. In America, we’ve seemed to adopt this mindset that we can overwork and strong-arm ourselves into becoming the person we want to be. We settle on the thought that once that clock strikes twelve, we can jump to the end result of months and months of building habits and discipline and automatically adopt a routine that’ll yield us all the success of our past failings. We set unreasonable expectations, then shame and bully ourselves once we begin to feel the expected fatigue, leaving us more tired and even more frustrated. To get around this and to where we want to be, making progress on our goals of self-improvement, we must adopt a mindset that says, “the new me can happen now, and the new season for ourselves starts whenever we say it does.”

Instead of trying to cram all of our workouts, eating healthy, journaling, and self-care into the first day of the new year we should allow ourselves to begin that journey now, starting off with small steps. Setting small goals like getting up fifteen minutes earlier to read and write, versus trying to wake up an hour earlier, or doing a five-minute ab-workout versus the thirty minutes high-intensity workout, allows us to gradually form habits. These small steps allow us to not only do the physical work of moving towards our goal, but also provide us with the mental benefit, exercise, and strength we gain from taking the journey of self-improvement. “Little things make a big difference” is often a quote we hear but truthfully very few of us believe. We have to trust that small moments create larger ones and that any amount of progress is truly good progress and worthy of celebration.

Eshe Ukweli

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