The futility of New Year’s Resolutions

Identifying meaning behind goal-setting

Raindrops splatter my windshield as I look out at the quickly darkening sky. Pen and journal in hand, I listen to the loudness of the natural world. I wonder, Who do I want to grow into this coming year?

Jessica Tang

Raindrops splatter my windshield as I look out at the quickly darkening sky. Pen and journal in hand, I listen to the loudness of the natural world. I wonder, ‘Who do I want to grow into this coming year?’

How are the New Year’s Resolutions going?

Never mind, I’ll spare you from answering.

New Year’s Resolutions: glorified and rarely-reached goals set at the beginning of every year. From academic plans to health objectives, I sought to create simple habits to build upon for my New Year’s Resolutions in 2022. Here are some examples copied word-for-word from my journal.

  • read 2 books a month
  • meditate weekly
  • 1 min – 30 min reading before bed
  • study 5 minutes of Kanji per day
  • sip of water right after I wake up

The life span of these goals ranged from one week to an impressive three months. So, you could say my history of successful New Year’s Resolutions is close to nonexistent. When I did set goals, they were accomplishment-based: for example, reading two books a month.

I asked myself, “Why?” Why was I reading those two books per month? Because the internet said that reading will increase my already super high IQ? Alas, not quite.

Exposure to new ideas — that is why I prioritize reading. Whether it is the creative imagination of Brandon Sanderson or the insightful mind of Ryan Holiday, I find myself drawn to the brilliance of others. And so, to update my original goal of reading two books per month, this year I will grow in perspective.

When I reframed my New Year’s Resolution, I became intrinsically motivated to do more than simply pick up a book because the end goal of reading was not an end goal at all. Rather, it was a means to the intangible goal of greater understanding. Driven by the “why,” I found myself sure, picking up a new book, but also challenging my beliefs and talking to those who think differently.

Let’s take a look at the second bullet point. Contrary to popular understanding, sitting on my bed with my back straight, legs crossed and eyes closed did not bring peace of mind. Peace of mind! That’s what I wanted, not some random guy telling me to breathe in and hold. I discovered there were many paths to this elusive state of serenity besides widely-popularized meditation apps. What’s working for me now is journaling followed by reading some philosophy book I chose from my brother’s shelf. Or Sunday mornings cleaning my room. Or going to the gym after school.

Or an infinite number of other things that remind me the present moment is enough.

It’s easy to give in to escapism. But when I feel overwhelmed, I know binging “Ginny and Georgia” will only snowball my uncertainties. And so, I drive to the park near my house and sit. Sometimes, I literally just sit. I acknowledge my thoughts and look around me.

Because the silence of the present is not really silent at all. Rather, the laughs of children and the conversations of birds draw me to the present moment outside of the turmoil of my mind.

In 2022, I realized that even simple habits are subject to stumbles in will and motivation. But habits are important — they guide our days, which become weeks, and weeks which become months. Soon, years have flown by and the person you dreamed of becoming feels so out of reach. My bad, that was a little existential. Anyway, my point is that it’s important to stop and question the motivations behind your goals. What better time than the New Year?