Saying No to New Year Resolutions

Saying No to New Year Resolutions December 29, 2018
a stormtrooper toy posed to reach for a bare lit lightbulb
“Shiny resolution!” // Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

I hate New Year Resolutions. Hate. It’s an active waste of energy, this hate, but whenever I hear folx talking about their resolutions for 2019, my ass begins to twitch. It’s a real problem. A personal problem, naturally, but real enough for me.

One part of it is that I am contrary by nature. I both don’t write and do shave in November. Both are different enough for me that if I need to raise awareness for anything, my lack of wordcount and freshly smooth wookiee legs serve.

Not to say that others don’t get things done in November! People do. It’s a great kick in the ass for them that do.

Kinda less so for people who don’t. The end part of my November is usually spent reassuring writers that it’s okay they didn’t finish or get far in their manuscript in November. That it’s okay to have made even a little progress and that the inability to make progress has, in fact, zero actual say on a writer’s capability and talent.

Personally speaking, my feathers get seriously ruffled by societal expectations disguised as hype—it usually takes me years to get around to watching or reading whatever everybody is telling me I have to. I’m not sorry.

Having said that, there are traps I have clumsily and gleefully fallen into in the past. They are many, and some still linger, but the one I have come to combat directly is that of New Year Resolutions. That phrase, by the way, is misleading; hope disguising the realty.

New Years Resolutions, Defined:

Expectations Inspired by Other People That One Levies on Oneself and Most Having to Do With Some Kind of Betterment That Does Not Take Into Account One’s Circumstances, Energies, Fluctuating Life Events, and Actual Ability

That’s grim, Kace! How negative! You a pessimist or something?

I’m a romantic disguised as a realist. Or is that a realist disguised as a romantic? I’m an astrological cusp kid torn between air and earth—Virgo/Libra, on the Virgo side with majority Libra in my natal chart. I like to explain it like this: I really, really want to get organized, but I haven’t the faintest idea how. Also, I’ll argue anyone blue using facts and experience, but will also usually take the side of the party not present to defend/promote themselves. It’s another problem, but one for another time.

For a long time, I’d sit down at the end of the year and work on some resolutions. After all, when one actually sits down to make the list, one has all the intention in the world to follow through. Gym memberships soar in January, and we all know why. And so many of us are going to fail.

Why failure? Because New Year Resolutions are, at the very core of it, social constructs that set folx up for a year of pressure, disappointment, self-recrimination, and the perception of failure. They are often centered around outward expectations; what we look like, where we are in the world’s sense of financial value, what we accomplish around things. And why that?

No idea. I have theories—capitalistic countries, the need for praise and validation from society, a lack of self-love and -esteem—but at this point, I only know myself. I wish I hadn’t spent so many years not understanding my own motivations. Not the surface ones (I want to get fit, feel better, make money, etc), but as Cathy Yardley of Rock Your Plot (genre writers take note) describes human motivations: the why behind the why.

Intention is Powerful, but Words Matter

Here’s how I’m treating resolutions:  goals. Not a finite end, but the right direction. Sometimes you score a goal right at the beginning of the game, but more often it takes the combined efforts of time and motivation and help. If you’re here—if you struggle like I do with a feeling of not-enough and unworthiness—maybe this will work for you too. Take it and fly, my pretties.

And remember: these things won’t happen on their own. No matter what, like our Page of Wands, we’re going to have to focus our intent and will as much as we can. (Can! Not should.)

1. Don’t Plan for the Entire Year

It’s impossible! How can we possibly plan for every little thing, every little change? The top reason I can’t and don’t keep up with my resolutions is because I don’t take into account the chaos of life. Which is, by the way, utterly stupid because it’s not as if we aren’t totally used to it. Shit happens. You know? Shit happens. To assume it won’t—or that we can just ignore it and power through—is how we build the foundations that crumble under pressure. Build for earthquakes!

I will write at least three days a week from January to end of March, and strive for 900 words a day. (And I will take at minimum two days off. And I mean off! Go watch anime or something!)

January through March are the best times to do this writing goal. Winter’s giving way to spring and there’s not a lot of draw outside, and things are still slow to really get into motion. I tend to write an average of five days a week, but by allowing myself room for chaos, I’m making sure I don’t set myself up for self-judgment and failure.

2. Do Plan for a Reasonable Amount of Time

I re-work my main goals/needs every three months. See #1 for part of why, but there’s also a psychological factor—three months (one month, two, whatever) actually feels reasonable. It’s a chunk of time I can actually wrap my head around. You know what’s awesome? Many of us pagans have our years already broken into parts. Solstices, equinoxes, festivals; y’all know your jam. Use it!

I will practice a spiritual thing daily for 3 months.

Meditation, tarot draws, art sketches; whatever I feel and whatever I can, I will accomplish at least five minutes a day of inner focus and, when I am crushed under depression, look at the sticky note on my computer: It’s okay to not be okay.

3. Don’t Disappoint Your Science Teacher

The first thing I learned in science was the concept of terminology and the scientific hypothesis. At the beginning of every science fair, we were told over and over that there is no such scientific conclusion as “better”. What does better even mean?

It’s a wishy-washy word that leaves goals way too broad. Vague concepts make for vague efforts. Metro’s nailed it:

Erin Falconer says in her new book, ‘How to Get Sh*t Done’, that using the word ‘should’ is holding us back from achieving our goals. Why? Because ‘should’ implies an obligation, and is often associated with guilt, shame and an ‘absence of decision’. And it also suggests that something is a ‘possibility rather than a reality’.

No psychological shortcuts, right? There’s a thousand things we should do. But only a few we will and only a few we actually need. Which brings me to the most important in my current world (and maybe in yours):

two pairs of feet stopped at words painted on a sidewalk passion led us here
Passion Led Us Here // Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

4. Do Take Care of Your Self

Health is important. Feeling physically fit and feeling nice and comfy in your surroundings of choice (I’m a clutter bug; that fine line between too empty and too messy) are good, but it’s not enough. We have to take care not just of ourselves but also of our Self.

We are bound by the world we live in, there is no doubt of that, but there is nothing binding our inner selves—except ourselves. Frankly, I’m hungry. Aren’t most of us? After all, I’m here and I’ve gone witching because I am seeking that space and path and place where I belong—not physically, not societally, but in spirit.

Resolutions are usually about the physical and the material. If that were enough, don’t you think we’d give ourselves a greater shot at succeeding at the rest? I do. It’s real hard to get things done, to scrap up the motivation, when you’re starving.

If I can dedicate time and internal resources to my own wellbeing, imagine what I can do.

Author, Will Craig, is quoted as saying, “The life you live is the outward expression of your inner journey.” Perhaps, this year, instead of trying to figure out food, or finances, or family and friends, you could resolve, first, to better understand yourself. (Huffpost)

I will continue to read the books that interest me.

I will broaden my knowledge one day at a time and pick up the books on spiritual histories, paths, ways and thoughts—and I will not force myself to read whatever I might pick up that I don’t like. Life is too short to waste time reading what doesn’t speak to me.

I will remember that there are no shortcuts to spiritual fulfillment.

I am not Harry Potter. The Wizard’s Oath doesn’t actually (okay, didn’t actually) make me a wizard. I am not the protagonist of an urban fantasy. Magic will not come to me overnight.

I will remind myself that mindful sitting can be hard and that is okay.

With practice comes ease, and with ease comes the ability to broaden one’s efforts bit by bit. But on the days where I simply cannot crawl out of bed, when I cry at the slightest of worries and the world seems insurmountable, I can just remind myself that this will pass… and when I sit next time, the very day I feel I can, I will have a lot to reflect on and see the positivity in.

And that’s it. I have my intentions laid out; I have a small portion of the year sprinkled with intention. I see where I want to go, and three months from now, I’ll look back at my planner and admire what of these I have accomplished. Each is a milestone; a marker on a long road. Each stone is mine—I carve it and set it down and when I look back, every one will be a colorful reminder that things can change for the best, too.

Now that I think about this… I think I’ll actually make some kind of physical memento for every 3 months. Maybe an art piece, maybe a sticky note, maybe just a gold star sticker in my planner. Whether success of goal or efforts and passage of time, I—we—keep on.

See y’all in three months to talk about how awesome we are for making it through.

About K. C. Alexander
K. C. Alexander is an SF/F author and very proud of smearing her bloody fingers all over the lines. She writes aggressive transhumanist sci-fi, co-wrote Mass Effect: Andromeda: Nexus Uprising, and may or may not be a witch. Like what she does? Want to see more? Pledge on Patreon for some tarot offerings and writing work. Every offer helps a genderqueer author make ends meet. You can read more about the author here.
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  • Pennybird

    Making changes is hard in the darkest and coldest part of the year, as it is hear in the North American northeast. People might have more success in sticking with their resolutions if they began in spring when days are longer and optimism is high.

  • I agree! Like on summer solstice or the like. Honestly, the wheel of the year is sort of prime for quarterly resolutions anyway, right? I feel like whatever helps us get through, right? LOL